Wednesday, November 11, 2015 || By Rev. Regi Ratliff
s I examine the African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ I recognize this term takes on an entirely different meaning in today’s society. This ancient African proverb teaches eternal truth. But, where do we find the truth when we have been lying to ourselves.
During these challenging times, our communities aren’t where they should be. There’s no question that many of us would like to live in a community where people are genuinely concerned about others and neighbors willingly help each other when things are tough without asking for anything in return — a community where it’s safe to leave the doors unlocked and let the kids play around outside.
I remember those days while growing up in the Village of Maywood. The days where we played basketball or softball at Winfield Scott Park and strike ‘em out at Van Buren school; when we ate at Al’s restaurant on First Avenue; partied at the A&P on Fifth Avenue; or skated at the Maywood Park District on 9th Avenue — all without worrying about someone doing a drive by shooting. However, those days of love peace and harmony are long gone!
Back to this African proverb.
If it takes a village, why are we witnessing one of the largest bloodsheds in a generation in Chicago history? If it takes a village, why aren’t we holding marches against black-on-black crime like we do against police-on-black crime? If it takes a village, why aren’t there more volunteers stepping up to provide tutoring assistance, employment training and scholarships for high school students?
Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you have heard about the most recent carnage that’s taking place in the streets of Chicago. The entire nation shares our pain in learning of the demonic murder of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee.
Tyshawn was shot multiple times by grown men in a retaliatory gang shooting against his father. As little Tyshawn laid in a pool of his own blood on that cold concrete surface in the alley, with nobody there to comfort him, what did you think he was thinking before taking his final breath? Do you think he was trying to scream for his mother? Do you think he tried to cry? Do you think he tried to get up and run away from the bad guys like they do in the movies? What do you think his final words were before he left this earth? We will never know.
What about the senseless murder of aspiring 20-year-old model Kaylyn Pryor? Pryor was a victim of a drive-by shooting in Englewood, which happened while she was on her way home to Evanston.
According to reports, Pryor was not the intended target. The fact that she wasn’t the intended target doesn’t take away the pain of her dying so young. The fact of the matter is Pryor’s life was snuffed from her energetic body way too early.
Can you imagine what must’ve been going through her mind after getting shot? ‘This can’t be happening? Why me? I’m this close to fulfilling my dream and now I might not live to see my dreams come true?’ Again, we will never know. But what we do know is she was on her way to achieving her dream of becoming a model. Like Tyshawn, Pryor will never have an opportunity to see the world as an adult, celebrate a wedding, graduate from college, or have a family of her own.
In addition to the death of Tyshawn Lee and Kaylyn Pryor, three additional shootings took place this past week. All three victims were teenagers who suffered gunshot wounds outside a school on Chicago’s Southwest side.
Even in my beloved Maywood, a 47-year-old African American male was murdered this past week.
Obviously, I’m struggling with this proverb, which is used as if it really means something. If it takes a village, why are we allowing our schools to struggle so mightily?
Since society is on this ‘It takes a village’ kick, here are several more examples of how much our village cares:
Quantae Riles, 14 years old, was shot to death on Nov. 7 in the Southwest Side Gage Park neighborhood. Riles had recently moved back to Chicago from Virginia. When he was shot, he was walking home from the store with his friends.
Marlon Spivey, 24 years old, was fatally shot on Nov. 3 in the Gage Park neighborhood.
Jerald Strong, 24 years old, was fatally shot on Nov. 3 during an argument in the Gage Park neighborhood.
Amari Brown, 7 years old, was fatally shot in the Humboldt Park community as he was watching fireworks with his family on July 4.
Dillan Harris, 1, was killed in July after a car whose driver was speeding away from a homicide struck him on a street in the Woodlawn neighborhood.
Anthony Diaz, 13 years old, was fatally shot in February in the Belmont Cragin community as he was leaving the scene of a fistfight he had recorded on his cellphone.
If it takes a village, that village should recognize that no parent should bury a child. The fact that parents are grieving over the loss of their children at such an alarming rate is tragic. It shows how much the African proverb has failed the black community. Since this is the case, my question for the masses is, ‘If it takes a village to raise a child, then who is going to raise that village?’
Dr. Harold Trulear, who serves as an associate professor of applied science at Howard University in Washington, D.C., penned this question in an article that addresses the need for the African American community to take responsibility of educating our community.
I’m not interested in the protest about Spike Lee’s upcoming film “Chi-Raq.” If more time was focused on working together to create resources in our community, many more young lives will be saved.
In conclusion, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that there are too many preachers out here who are only preaching but not producing.
As Preachers, we are called to provide service to the least and the lost. What good is it to drive a Mercedes Benz and own a mansion in the suburbs, while your community is dying? Sure, some of us travel for speaking engagements or revivals and get paid fairly well for providing that ‘service.’ But make no mistake, we all need to get our tails out of the presence of television cameras and out of the pulpit so we can get our hands dirty by creating resources that will empower our community to bear good fruit and thrive.
The church is the vehicle, the very essence, that moves our community forward. If we are going to figure out how the village is going to raise our children, let us first figure out how we are going to raise our village! VFP
Reverend Regi Ratliff is the Founder and Executive Director of Eternal Light Community Services, located at 200 S. Fifth Avenue in Maywood. Eternal Light provides the following programs:public speaking, financial literacy, health and wellness, and entrepreneurship classes to youth, ages 5-18.
Contact Rev. Ratliff at (708) 813-4722 to register your child for one of our programs today.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Village Free Press.