Monday, February 20, 2012

The Interrupters- Blessed Are The Peacemakers

...For they will be called children of God.

Any teacher capable of teaching in any effective, worthwhile or measurable manner in any inner city you choose realizes that every student who enters their classroom does so with a minimum of two strikes already against them. Inadequate health care promotes chronic health conditions; lack of fresh, healthy foods at local venues exacerbates the obesity epidemic, and greater environmental stress levels add significantly to the rising asthma rates. Those are but the secondary, incidental dangers of life in the hood. Then you get to the more apparent, better publicized dangers to health and well being that few in mainstream America are willing to acknowledge long enough to confront, reassess and rectify in any meaningful recourse beyond lip service. While every inner city is home to some of the most loving, resourceful and industrious people found on earth, few are able to deny the rampant problems caused by drugs, abusive or absentee parents, and an omnipresent violence so pervasive that it ultimately perverts and dominates the way children think, interact and live their fragile, at risk lives.

Into this maddening mix walk The Interrupters, products of the very environment described above. They're the lucky ones who not only survived, but somehow managed to overcome, and are now hellbent on trying to prevent however many lives they can from going down the same wretched road they crashed and burned on- one volatile life at a time. These are the people who can reach at risk youth in their homes, on their streets, in their very minds and hearts. A special breed born of the same desperation, who now give back in ways no school teacher, social worker, preacher, and certainly no cop, could rarely, if ever, realize. We need so many more of them- but even they are ultimately a stop gap measure, a band aid on a festering, mortal wound.

There's little question that unemployment is the inner city's most insidious disease, the major usurper of dreams and aspirations, it's outright greatest killer. Employment is key to helping transform neighborhoods, where everyday life is a veritable minefield of handguns, threats and violence, into thriving environments where hope is a reality- one you can dream, achieve and live right there, with other people who look just like you. Unfortunately, we now live in an era where the cost of higher education is increasingly out of reach even for lower middle class incomes, and the most vulnerable of our youth are left to answer their nation's highest calling either by serving as the raw material for their country's latest overseas misadventure, or by "participating" in its most rapidly growing, domestic employment opportunity (for those folk furthest from the inner city)- the prison industrial complex. One of the most pervasive and pernicious "opportunities" for at risk youth to finally make it out of the ghetto!

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