CT FengerBeating07

As head of the Black Star Project, Phillip Jackson is often fighting a lonely battle to keep America’s black children in school and out of prison and trouble. These days, in his hometown of Chicago, it has become even harder. The city where “diploma dreams go to die”, has also seen hundreds of young students die inside and out of its public schools. In this piece, Jackson offers his own solutions for stemming youth violence for the long run.

Youth violence is a national issue. Since we began the Iraq war in 2003, an estimated 32,000 American youths lost their lives to violence — far more than the 4,349 U.S. soldiers who died in battle. Yet the United States treats youth violence as a nuisance, not as a war it wants to win.

We cannot fix the problems of children or schools in America without first fixing the problems of the adults in their lives and of the communities in which the children live. Anything else is pretending to fix the problem and is a community disservice!

So far, the most popular approaches to address youth violence have not made any significant nor long-term impact. More police merely militarizes and destabilizes communities. The other offering that haven’t worked includes: Stiffer sentencing for young offenders; direct intervention at the point of impending violence; vigils, peace rallies and peace marches through communities;  and prayers without concrete, supportive actions.

Meanwhile there are effective approaches cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that have been shown to reduce youth violence over time and produce long-term, lasting, positive results. Build strong families and communities and employ good parents as the chief agents to reduce youth violence. Teach young children ways to resolve conflict peacefully. Provide mentors to serve as guides and role models for positive youth behavior. Reduce social and economic causes of violence in young people’s environments. And ensure spiritual or character-based training for young children and reinforce that training throughout their early teen years.

In Chicago, the youth, themselves, are asking for more mentors, more parent involvement in their lives and more job and economic opportunities. Their requests parallel CDC’s recommendations to reduce violence. But these requests – and the solutions – are ignored. While government attempts to study, analyze and understand youth violence, the Black Star Project is implementing workable solutions in Chicago — ground zero for the war against youth violence.

Each day, the Black Star Project has 250 male and female volunteers who mentor youth on school days.  Since 1996, the Black Star Project has provided classroom-based mentoring to nearly 200,000 Chicago-area students. We also have 100 Peace Walkers who patrolled high-risk neighborhoods in Chicago this summer; 70 Parent University professors who have taught thousands of parents to be great parents since 2004 and 25 college coaches who have helped prepare thousands of elementary school students for college.

Through our Million Father March 2009, we organized 625,000 fathers in 500 cities across America to take their children back to school on the first day. These are the kinds of “armies of hope” that the federal government needs to win this war.

If we continue to address this problem with the current lack of resolve, including misdirected, piece-meal efforts with too-few resources — just as we lost the war in Vietnam, then we are destined for a resounding defeat in the war against youth violence on the streets of America.

The effort to eliminate youth violence commands a national response that includes national resources, a national infrastructure and national leadership. This effort must be comprehensive and coordinated across foundation, government, faith-based and community-based organizational lines. Many organizations such as The Black Star Project are working to restore order in chaotic and violence-ridden neighborhoods.  Our efforts are essential to eliminate violence, restore hope and reduce the need for militarizing our many troubled communities.

Our war to save the minds and spirits of our children is the most important war that America will ever fight.  Saving our children is difficult because of the “No Snitching” code-of-silence among our American youth, which has proved devastating and unacceptable in this war.  Yet our government’s “No Support” policy for organizations that work for long-term solutions to fix this problem of youth violence in American communities is inexcusable.  In fact, “No Support” is far, far worse than “No Snitching,” and our children know it!