Close your eyes. Tap into your imagination. What do you see? Do you see your street, your neighborhood, or your city? Vacant lots once filled with unhealthy and unsightly debris have been transformed into gardens that yield colorful and fragrant flowers and an astounding variety of edible vegetables. During the week –- on school days – the doors of every church, synagogue, mosque, and temple are open at seven o’clock in the morning. Members of the congregation are busy preparing and serving a healthy
breakfast to children who would otherwise go to school on an empty stomach. No longer are the children on your street, your neighborhood, and in your city going to school hungry and unable to concentrate on their studies. And members of the congregations escort the children to school to make sure
that they arrive there safely and on time. Weekly community council meetings bring together neighbors, concerned citizens, health care professionals and providers, social services professionals and providers, Fatherhood Practitioners and Advocates, ward leaders, block captains,
legislators, legal professionals, law enforcement professionals, educators, school administrators, grassroots community organizations, business and religious leaders, and social entrepreneurs to discuss and resolve issues of public safety, economics, education, Fatherhood, positive male role
models, and physical and mental health. What do you hear? Listen closely. Men and Women on your street, in your neighborhood and in your city are talking about how the rehabilitation of boarded-up and abandoned houses and
storefronts have helped to eradicate blight, reduced crime, attracted jobs and businesses, and created a nurturing and safe environment that is conducive to positively shaping the minds and souls of our children – the future – our bridge to the future. Do you hear the songs of happiness that
the children on your street, in your neighborhood, and in your city are singing – songs that replace the nightmarish sounds of deadly gunfire? And what do you feel? Hope? Love? Compassion? Tranquility?
Is this a dream? It should be a new reality for you, your children, yourneighborhood, and your city. While it is true that communities and cities throughout our global village are beset with a plethora of challenges, these challenges are actually *opportunities *in disguise. The Universe is
tapping each of us on the shoulder and whispering: “Rethink! Rebuild! Renew!”
We must rethink how we are preparing our children – the *Emerging Keepers of the Planet – for their future. Are we programming our children for success or for failure? Are we teaching them, through our words and deeds, how to channel negative energy into positive energy; peacefully resolve conflicts; and constructively deal with anger, pain, fear, disappointment, and rejection? Do we teach them simple arithmetic and how to read and write before they are enrolled in pre-school education classes and regular
school? Are we introducing them to foreign languages, music, and art? What life lessons are we teaching our children about compassion, decision making, collaboration, loyalty, and integrity?
Contrary to popular opinion, our children – our future – our bridge to the future – listen to everything we say. But they are also watching us to see if we are “walking the talk”, particularly when it comes to what we say our expectations are for them. For example, we expect our children to go to
school and learn and to excel academically. That’s what we tell them. We also tell them why they need to do this: If they go to school, learn and excel academically, don’t drop out of school, and graduate from high school, they will have a future – they can get a job or go to college. But
are we attending the PTA meetings, going over our children’s homework every evening, making sure they are studying for tests, arranging for tutoring of our children in subjects they are struggling with, motivating them and
engaging them in daily conversations about what is going on in school, and making sure that the School Board and our children’s principals and teachers understand that we are holding them accountable for providing our children with a quality education and a learning environment that is free
from bullying and violence? If we are not doing any of these things, what message are we really sending to our children about how much we care about their education? More importantly, are we giving our children something to
aspire to? When they travel to and from home and school, do they have to worry about being the victim of random and deadly gunfire? As they look around the streets and the neighborhood business corridors, what do they see? Do they see thriving communities and an economic oasis that will
supply them with careers and jobs? Can they say to themselves, “Okay, if I continue to get good grades, learn as much as I can in school, and stay in school and graduate, I can work in one of the neighborhood businesses – I can work in and be successful in my own neighborhood. Or I can start my own business right here where I grew up and provide jobs for people in the neighborhood! I have a future here. I can see it. I can even raise a family of my own in the neighborhood where I grew up – where people mentored me,
nurtured me, and loved me. I don’t have to leave to be successful.” Now isn’t that what we really want? Isn’t that what the village really needs? Doesn’t the village need its children – whom it nurtured, mentored, and loved – to return or remain in the village to care for and protect its most
vulnerable members – our babies and our Elders*?
We must rebuild the village. Let’s create Community Councils that bring together key stakeholders – you, your neighbors, health care professionals and providers, social services professionals and providers, Fatherhood
Practitioners and Advocates, ward leaders, block captains, legislators, legal professionals, law enforcement professionals, educators, school administrators, grassroots community organizations, business and religious leaders, social entrepreneurs, and our youth*. Community Councils can
identify and work to resolve the key challenges that exist in the village – blight, housing, education, economics, health – physical and mental, crime, violence, Fatherhood, and positive male role models. They would create and
implement action plans and partnerships that would set in motion, for example, the rehabilitation of abandoned houses and vacant storefronts; attraction and retention of responsible homeowners and business owners to the neighborhoods; mandatory academic enrichment programs and anger management and conflicts resolution training for all children; equal access to preventive health care and medical and parenting resources and support services; and the monitoring and enhancement of the quality of education
provided by educators and school administrators in neighborhood schools and the academic performance of children attending these schools.
We must renew our faith in each other; our ability to make the impossible possible; and our commitment to our children – our future – our bridge to the future.