This blog is inspired by a recent blog that I read from John Hope Bryant entitled "Why Thug Culture Is Actually Our Inner-City Problem". Mr. Bryant was our keynote speaker at last years L.E.A.D. Dinner With Champions Awards Celebration at the Delta 755 Club at Turner Field. He tells it like it really is and influences change.
Impact is the ability to influence or alter. There isn't a day that goes by when organizations and individuals make attempts to influence positive change in Atlanta Public Schools (APS). There are several problems that are faced in the inner city of Atlanta and as a result there is a tremendous desire to help.
I was born and raised in the inner city of Atlanta during a time when the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) were among the top academically in the state. There were several social issues that existed but not to the point of having so many non-profit organizations being involved with the schools to promote excellence. With so many organizations available to serve youth in the inner city of Atlanta, why is the high school graduation rate of African-American males within APS still 34%?
In order to make impact anywhere, a cultural, language, geography and history gap must be closed.
The first gap that must be closed in order to make impact is a cultural gap. As Mr. Bryant mentioned in his recent blog, there is a "thug culture" that exists in the inner city of Atlanta. There is a desire for some youth to live a life of crime instead of making sacrifices in the classroom. The thug life can bring fast money but it can also shorten your life on Earth. These young men want to excel but lack the tools and consistent mentor-ship to become productive citizens.
L.E.A.D. doesn't judge the young men that we serve. We simply meet them where they are. I understand the inner city Atlanta culture because I grew up in it. We give them what they need and not what we think that they want. L.E.A.D. offers year round programming so that we can create a new culture for our LEADers through four pillars of excellence that include academics, athletics, service/civic engagement, and exposure.
The solution to changing this negative culture is to first understand how we got here. We got here by not remaining connected with our youth. As a child, I was constantly asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer was always to become a professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs. Know one ever told me that I couldn't do it. With support from my family and the Atlanta community, my dream came true.
The "Thug Culture" can change by asking young students what their dreams are. We as an Atlanta community can use our resources to help those dreams come true. Youth organizations will create catchy slogans to raise funds and awareness but it is now time to do the work that your mission speaks of. It is time to stop talking about the problem and be a part of the solution.