Much of my writings are inspired by personal life happenings that ultimately translate to bigger life meanings. On Sunday as I sat through church service I had the fortunate opportunity to hold onto my infant nephew, William, through the entire service. As the altar prayer happened and so many walked to the front in hopes of laying their burdens and cares upon the altar in search of spiritual resolution, I looked down at William and began to weep. I know it seems a little dramatic, but the combination of the spiritual awakening that was taking place with the innocence of what sat in my arms, I found myself overwhelmed. I found myself inspired.
Here was the little boy of one of my best friends since childhood sitting in my arms. I could not help but to think of all the woes his father, uncle, and I had gone through to become the men we are today. Through single mother homes, higher education, and even being victims of violent crime we managed to survive to contribute something meaningful to the world, and for William’s father he was the result.
You see, I thought about the fact that I too was that size, that inquisitive, and that innocent. I also realized that one day I would hold my own child in my arms with the hope of protecting them from all that would come to harm them. I wondered what my parents thought when I too was that size.
William will grow up, as we all do. We hope that as he does, we will have overcome so many of the problems that plague African American young men in our country. We hope to overcome disproportionate incarceration rates where African American men, according to the DC Based Sentencing Project, now constitute 900,000 of the total 2.2 million incarcerated in this country, and 1 in 6 African American men have been incarcerated since 2001.
I hope we will overcome the educational gaps that exist. Gaps where 33% of African American students attend high poverty high schools. The rate at which
African American males drop out or get placed in special education far exceeds the rate at which they are graduating and reaching high levels of academic achievement. We hope we can create a society where African American men are pushed to state institutions filled with books instead of bars.
I hope we will begin to change the cycle of what we teach our children. We won’t cloak them in old stereotypes filled with hate and bigotry. We can begin to teach them that justice and fairness for all doesn’t only apply to people that look and think like them. We can teach them that we as a society are only as strong as the weakest of us and only together can we progress. A society where we learn it’s ok to strive to be all that we can be and playing small should never be an option.
I believe we can get there. When that altar prayer happened on Sunday, and young William looked at me I forgot about myself, and this was my prayer for him and for my children to come. We deserve to create this society for our young black men. If we don’t, we will continue to lose them for generations to come. We can do more for our little boys.
Dallas S. Jones is the CEO of Elite Change, LLC a public affairs and political consulting firm with offices in Houston, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Washington, DC. He resides in the 3rd Ward community with his wife Angela Lopez Jones.