Monday, September 21, 2009

We are all family

As I turned the corner a block from my home I was surprised to see a wave of nearly fifty young men and women, all wearing white T-shirts. It’s not unusual to see groups of young men wearing white tees in my neighborhood. They have become a kind of uniform publicized by the hip-hop group, Dem Franchize Boyz, in their song, The White Tee Gang, and by other rappers.

Some schools, restaurants and clubs have even begun to ban white tees because they have become so associated with gang affiliation. Police officers are often baffled when the description is broadcast that they are looking for a young black man in a white tee. They arrive to find ten young men who would fit the description. The tees have become a symbol of solidarity in the face of the injustice of the system.

These tees were different. They had black writing on them. I strained to read what was on the shirts as I slowed to let a group of them cross the street in front of me. As young man graciously waved me on, I read his shirt. “We are all family.”

“Isn’t that nice?” I thought. “Someone on the block is having a family reunion.” Then I noticed the backs of the shirts. In bold letters was written, “Black Souls.” My heart sank. The family that all of these young people on my block were associating with is a notorious street gang.

I have a dream that someday the white tees in our neighborhood will be replaced by Breakthrough tees. The kids get them when they participate in any of our sports leagues, after school programs, the choir or the hunger walk. One by one the white tees in our neighborhood are being offset by the multi-colored Breakthrough tees symbolizing the young people who really want to do well in school and to participate in positive activities that ensure a bright future instead of the violence and the hopeless downward spiral of gang life.

"We are all family". It's how I would describe the reign of the shalom of God, the answer to Jesus' prayer that the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven. But if we are not family to our children, they will find their family somewhere else.


Westy said...

It's pretty ironic really that the gangs recognize so clearly what many of these young men are lacking-- family.

I watched these guys gather at a picnic earlier this summer, and you could almost read on their faces the yearning for someone to care about them.

The most obvious emotion I felt as I watched them walk down the street together (acting so much tougher with the numbers) was sadness. Sadness at lives so close to poor decisions that could haunt them for the rest of their life, and sadness at such overt attempts to fill a hole only God can.

Anonymous said...

“Educate or Die” - The Fate of Black America

By Phillip Jackson

The fate of Black America is simply “Educate or Die!” Government programs are ratcheting down, foundations are refusing to fund our causes, the media ignores our cries for help and the disorganized Black civil rights movement is impotent. At an accelerating pace, Black America is moving towards the precipice of non-relevance and non-existence in the new global world. This has created an undeclared state of emergency in the Black community without an adequate response from the Black community or the American government.

There is a sense hopelessness and powerlessness that permeates most Black communities in America. Just when we thought that only our Black boys and Black men were at risk, we now learn that our Black girls and Black women are also in grave danger. As a result, the future existence of the Black family and Black community as we know them is in jeopardy. These and other circumstances have catapulted Black America into the state of “Educate or Die!” and there are only two ways to leave this state, either use education to advance our race or die.

Phillip Jackson, Founder and Executive Director

The Black Star Project
3473 South King Drive, Box 464
Chicago, Illinois 60616

773.285.9600 or email at

Anonymous said...

I was rocked to my socks at the video of D.Albert getting beaten to death. Walking home from school he didn't know he was about to meet the LORD. Now he is safe. But what about the rest of us? At any moment we might be put into the position of looking into the LORDs eyes. Are you ready?