Tuesday, October 10, 2017 || By Dr. Rhonda Sherrod || OPINION || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Kerry James Marshall. “Garden Party”. 2003.
I enjoyed Michael Romain’s poignant, beautifully written opinion piece published in the Oct. 4 edition of Village Free Press, entitled “In praise of my aunt, the matriarch, on her 91st birthday.”
I got caught up on this part in particular: “There are fewer opportunities for elders to chastise, fewer teaching moments, fewer exchanges in the backyard.”
Tragically, Romain is correct about this singular truth: We do not communicate enough with our youths. It is something that I have long decried. Succinctly, we have to stop being afraid to address the trivial misconducts of our children before they become involved in something deeper. We have to do what our parents did for us: create a sense of community.
I stop young people all the time to correct their wrongs. I am not concerned about, or intimidated by, how they look — saggy pants or whatever. We have to look past their presentation (and sometimes their trauma) and see their need.
I have stopped an adolescent, or adolescents, to discuss everything from why he should not litter in his own neighborhood, and why crowding around the public library door is inconsiderate and off-putting to people trying to gain ingress and egress to the library, to why clogging up the public sidewalk is rude, and why riding down the street with loud music in residential neighborhoods constitutes a nuisance.
I have presented this information to them in a warm, respectful manner and in respectful, but authoritative, tones that convey a sense of love for them and regard for their futures (educators would call this being a “warm demander.”)
And this is what I know to be true: My comments have never been received with anything but respect in return. Moreover, taking the time to reach out to these young people has given me the opportunity to engage in some great “teachable moments” that allowed me to go beyond the immediate transgression to get to the essence of what constitutes a “good community.” The kids have responded to the knowledge I have imparted with gratitude and thoughtfulness. If we don’t tell them, how will they know?
Again, we have got to stop being afraid of our kids (and the gross media images that have defiled them and that we have consumed). They are, on the whole, sweet, good kids who need to be informed. It seems to me that the challenge we, as adults, are faced with is to see our kids as kids.
The research says that white people view our boys and girls as less innocent and, therefore, less deserving of protection, which, of course, has profound implications for everything from schooling to policing. We are in crisis, and our children need guidance to navigate this big, bold, dangerous world that can, alternatively, be a wonderful place if we encourage them to use their genius to help recreate a more just society going forward.
To Romain, thank you for starting a necessary conversation for Maywoodians. I would love for others to join in this important discussion. I am sure many of our wonderful community activists can share some meaningful and useful insights about how to effectively interact with our young people in brief, but important, encounters.
Rhonda Sherrod, J.D., Ph.D., is a Maywood native, and founder and president of the Need To Know Group, an education consultancy firm. Read more of her writings at http://www.survivinghealingandevolving.com/. VFP
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