Our Troubled Youth

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2010 by bryantroupe

He was a lightweight of a kid that probably weighed 110 pounds at the most. The eleven year old boy was spunky and arrogant. Overconfident. He took orders from no one. He despised you for even attempting to instruct him. He would hang out with all of the big drug dealers. He seemed to know them all by name. He would carry their poison for them in his jacket pocket.

Whenever I would see him, I would talk to him. And he would listen. I never reprimanded him. I didn’t say anything about the blunt he would smoke, the stench of weed penetrating the air. I would talk about life outside of the ghetto. I would talk about education. He could seem to care less about anything I said. He would never respond. But whenever he saw me, he would come around. Indeed, he began to follow me around as a puppy would.

“Where is your mother?” I asked him once. And he simply shrugged, staring at me with a smirk. Days later he told me that his mother was strung out on dope. His grandmother, he said, attempted to take care of him, but he had seen too much already. He ran in the streets now. No school at all. The streets were raising him.

One day, I saw him in the apartment hallway with a group of older thugs. One of the thugs stopped me to inform me that there may be shooting in the area sometime that day, due to a beef with another neighborhood. He then proceeded to show me two guns in his waistband.

“We ready for war,” were his words. I glanced at the kid, leaning against the wall with a smirk on his face. The eleven year old, looked at me, and then opened his long jacket, showing me its contents. Inside of the jacket was a Mac-11. The gun was as big as the kid.

I wanted to strangle the gold toothed thug who had stopped me. The thug was laughing loudly, as if the situation was hilarious. I walked away in disgust.

11 o’clock at night, there were no street lights. The streets were pitch-dark and if you had no business outside then you were in your apartment with the doors and windows shut and locked. Not this kid.

There was a knock on my apartment door. My girlfriend stirred in our bed, before dozing back to sleep. I glanced at the clock. It was after 11 pm. I flipped the porch light on and peered out of another window. It was the little kid, just standing there. He couldn’t see me however. Immediately I was suspicious. Why was he knocking on my door this late at night? Did one of the thugs send him to my door? Maybe the thugs were hiding, waiting for me to open the door. I attempted to peer out as far as I could from the window, but my view was limited. I could see no one else. So I cracked the door open, my foot and my hand behind the door, trying to pretend as if I had a gun. Upon the door opening, the kid looked up and began grinning. I stepped out onto the porch.

“What’s up homey?”

“You got a lighter?” he asked.

I stared at the child. Is that what he knocked on my door this late at night for?

“Hey, why are you knocking on my door this late?” I asked.

“You had your light on. I knew you were still up.” Simple answer. Indeed, I was still up before he knocked. I silently wondered how long he had been standing on the porch before he knocked.

I reached into my pocket and handed him a lighter. He lit a cigar and sat on the porch stoop. I sat in a chair. And all was quiet.

“You got some more spaghetti?”

The question took me by surprise. My girlfriend had made spaghetti a couple days ago, but it was long gone and devoured by me. How did he know there was spaghetti in my home?

“Your girl gave me some the other day,” he continued, as if reading my mind, and sounding exasperated.

“Nah,” I replied, finding my voice. “I’m sure we have something in there though. Hold on.”

I walked inside and retrieved a plate of leftover chicken wings from the refrigerator. I walked back to the porch holding the plate, and then remembered I should heat up the wings in the microwave.

“Wait a sec; I’m going to heat them up.”

“No, don’t worry about it,” he said, reaching for the plate. “Thank you.”

He grabbed the plate of food and began digging into the wings like a hungry stray animal.

I pretended to look away. My heart seemed to wrench in half. This poor kid! Didn’t those thugs feed him anything? How could I have been so blind? The kid was hungry!

About three minutes later, the kid stood up, and handed me the plate. After thanking me again and telling me how good my girlfriend’s cooking was he walked away down the completely black street. He didn’t even take a drink of water.

About six months later, I moved away from the neighborhood. A better way of saying it may be that I fled the area. The constant drama, fights, and sounds of gunshots did not make it a difficult decision to leave.

Two months after leaving, I watched the local news one evening after a hard day of work. The lead story flashed on the television screen.

“A young boy that was gunned down early this morning has been identified. He was twelve years old.”

A picture was shown on the television screen, and I began having trouble breathing. The kid had been killed.

Who in the world would do such a despicable thing?

I found out where the funeral would be held. But I didn’t go. I couldn’t bear to go and see the kid lying still in a casket. If only I had been more forceful with the kid. I could have made him see that the street life only held two things in store, prison and death.

***This is a fictional account based on actual events that happened in Overtown, Miami, FL. ***



The First Shot Fired

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2010 by bryantroupe

Finally! It appears that some type of action has been taken on behalf of inner city students that are failing in our schools. The Central Falls High School teacher firings are a perfect example of teachers and staff being held accountable for their continuing trend of producing failed results. At some point, it has to be made clear that the majority of inner city children are fully capable of learning and accepting responsibility. There are many times when a teacher does not expect much from their students. The teacher may not take the efforts to persuade the child to learn or even attempt to make some type of a positive impression on that child. This is only a couple of areas that these kids are craving to have filled. And, of course, when a teacher is lackadaisical at their job, they are not only setting the kids up for failure in school but sadly a lifetime of failures as well. Inner city teens that do not graduate high school have an extremely high probability of being in and out of the prison system, being habitual criminals, and giving birth to babies while still in their teens. The babies are usually raised in single parent or sometimes parentless homes (foster homes).
Some may say that these teachers cannot be these children’s parents and if the child or children don’t want to learn then the teacher is not to blame. And the individuals who make these statements are correct. The teachers should not be the child’s parents nor should the teachers try to be. But a teacher should be some sort of a mentor for these inner city kids. The teachers should be more accessible to these children. And these teachers should not accept any less from these children than what they would of other children, meaning if the children need to be pushed to try harder, then the teacher should do so. Indeed, a lot more attention has to be given to these inner city kids as a large amount of these children are what would be labeled as “troubled kids.” Remember that many of these kids may come from broken homes, poverty stricken areas, drug infested neighborhoods and who knows what else is going on. So these kids need someone who has the ability, talent, and love to bestow upon them.
If this seems to be calling for a complete revamp of the inner school systems as we know them to be, that would be accurate. While it is truly unfortunate that an entire staff of teachers had to lose their job in the state of Rhode Island, it is even more unfortunate that those children whom were former students of these teachers are probably facing larger obstacles than just being out of a job. Statistically speaking, many of the same children who did not graduate high school are facing years in prison, living criminal lives or are raising a child in another single parent home. President Obama stated that the Rhode Island school firings were “an example of the need of accountability over student performance.” The President is correct; however it can’t stop with just this school. There are multiple inner city schools that need a shock of some sort to be injected into them. Let’s hope it happens soon before we lose anymore of our children.

How to Break the Cycle

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2010 by bryantroupe

Why is the number of absentee fathers or mothers so prevalent among children raised in inner city areas? Why are scores of teenage girls giving birth to children? The HIV virus is highest among young men and women in the inner city neighborhoods. The crime rate is highest among the youth that reside in inner city areas. The murder rate is highest among the young kids that reside in the inner city areas. Are we seeing a trend here? These negative rates are the highest when compared to any other residential area in America. The only rate that seems to be extremely low here, sadly, is the rate of literacy. There is an astonishingly large amount of children that do not know how to read. And they will graduate with no problem, STILL not able to read!
So, again, the question is why are these negative issues so dominant in inner city neighborhoods? Some may point to religion, stating that the youth need to become more religiously active. Indeed, the core of inner city neighborhoods is religion or the neighborhood church. But the inner city churches have become increasingly at odds with the upcoming and modern generation. Many of the free-willed younger generation look at life in general with more of a quizzical type eye than their parent(s) or grandparent(s). There are many inner city churches that refuse to teach their children about practicing safe sex, instead choosing to teach children to remain abstinent. True enough, abstinence will definitely stop the use of teenage children giving birth and prevent STDs, but what if the children do not practice abstinence? Obviously, the answer speaks for itself. Take a glance around a poverty stricken area, and it is evident that teenage mothers did not follow the rules of abstinence. Not all inner city churches follow this doctrine, but there are still quite a few that do. Also, what if a young person decides that they do not want anything to do with a church? Should society give up on that person? Let’s hope not.
An extremely accurate diagnosis for the plight of the inner-city youth is lack of parenting and the absence of family. Many children, especially in poverty stricken areas, have unfortunately taken on the responsibility of raising and parenting themselves. The majority of the households are single parent households, and the one parent may work long hours, which interferes with being able to raise a child properly. In many of these areas, the parenting situation is even worse for the child. The parent may have had their child or children at a young age, and many times that parent has never fully matured. A parent may be fighting an addiction to drugs and therefore not able to give a child the attention they desperately need and crave. Or a parent may crave the attention of a “significant other” (boyfriend or girlfriend) over the love of their own child. Whatever the reason, the fact is there are many children in inner city areas that do not have a parent that is making a positive impact on their lives. The result is more often than not an endless churning circle, meaning that the children will only repeat the same fateful results as their parents. If a child has no parent to raise them properly, then it should be crystal-clear that this same child may be heading toward a cul-de-sac in life. So the question becomes, if these inner city kids do not get the parenting they deserve, do we simply write them off as the fault of the parent? Although it is the fault of the parent for not supplying the nurture and care that a child needs, do we help a child with an absentee parent? Or do we walk away? Let’s hope that we would not leave a child in this type of predicament.
The one and only thing that would help our inner city youth more than even parenting is education. There are probably many that scoff at the idea of education being placed ahead of parenting as a priority. However, being that many of the inner city youth do not have the parenting they so desperately need means that they may be headed for either prison, death, or both. How can education help to solve these negative issues facing the youth? It is simple. Proper education will give the youth something to look forward to and stop the cycle of redundancy. The issues of teen pregnancy, absentee fathers, STDs, and criminal acts can all be done away with if the youth are properly educated. The process of education needs to begin from grades K and continuing through grade 12. School needs to be a sanctuary of sorts for these inner city kids, the one place that they are able to relax and be a child.
Currently, the schools of the inner city areas are disasters. A lot of the blame can be placed on many of the teachers, who can be very lackadaisical and apathetic when it comes to teaching. Quite a few teachers seem resigned to the “fact” that there are some students are failures, and there is nothing that will change that. Of course, nothing is further from the truth. For many of these inner city kids, school is their last viable option to strive for success and make their voices heard. When a teacher basically gives up on a child, that child will definitely recognize this form of rejection and turn to the only thing they know – the streets.
Not all teachers of inner city schools are unworthy to be teaching. There are teachers who want to help these students in every way possible, but only have a limited amount of resources to complete their job. This is the fault of those in the school administration and on the school boards. These teachers deserve more pay for what they are being asked to do. The students that walk through those school doors need the proper attention that they may fail to get at home, on top of being taught and understood. A plan would be for each teacher to have some type of assistant or monitor that basically is similar to a counselor for the students. Not a few counselors for the entire school, but one counselor or mentor for each classroom. In these classrooms, a lot more will be going on than teaching. There should be listening, on the teachers and counselor’s behalf. There should be plenty of sit down and one on one session with each child. And this teacher’s pay would definitely have to be raised.
It would be amazing at the results that would come about if a group were to be properly educated throughout their entire school life. It would affect the amount of teens becoming pregnant, the amount of youth catching diseases, and the multitude of crimes that the youth may commit. In turn, once these students graduate and start families, these new families will be affected positively. Now the cycle has been broken. Many of this new educated generation will go on to complete college. Most will be able to start new jobs in their communities. And now the negative face of the inner city can began to change in a positive direction.