Beginning in May, a series of meetings at black churches drew committed African-Americans to discuss the community’s most pressing problems.
And the list is disturbingly long: Urban violence, poverty, poor education, isolation, single-parent homes, poor diet, food deserts, substance abuse and guns.
“The State of the Black Family Series” has received little media attention, but it should be making national headlines because of the trouble African-Americans face everywhere. Pastors Calvin and Cassandra Wainwright started the initiative, which is sponsored by the Concerned Clergy Coalition of Kansas City.
“We have to become honest about telling our own story,” Kansas City Councilman Michael Brooks, who is a minister, said at the first meeting at the Lift Him Up Family Worship Center. African-Americans, he said, suffer a post-traumatic stress disorder from the community ills.
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A destructive anger boils in people, leading to mushrooming problems.
“Superman is not coming to the rescue,” Brooks said. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ain’t coming back.”
Brooks and others say it’s up to African-Americans to heal the community’s ills. The state of the black family is shaky but not a lost cause, said the Rev. David Anthony Gilmore.
“We’re in a 911 situation, an SOS,” the Rev. Calvin Wainwright said at the Central Christian Church. “Save our sons, save our sisters and save our streets.”
The series has attracted a good mix: Adults, children, police officers, psychologists, social workers, educators and ministers. What’s clear is the black community’s problems are America’s problems. African-Americans suffer disproportionately high infant mortality rates, gun violence, substance abuse, poor housing, unemployment, poor education, high incarceration rates, high cancer deaths, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. But the numbers aren’t good for whites either.
The next meeting is at 4 p.m. Saturday, at Calvary Temple Baptist Church. The fifth in the series is at 6 p.m. July 10 at Concord Fortress of Hope Church. The last is at 4 p.m. July 20 at Zion Grove Baptist Church.
Black churches are the right setting to have the discussions because historically they’ve helped African-Americans overcome slavery, provided strength and unity after emancipation, offered comfort and support against Jim Crow and segregation, and fueled the civil rights movement.
Racism and discrimination continue to hurt. But the series has focused on what black people must do for themselves. The June 12 discussion focused on solutions.
Some included taking inventory of the black community’s liabilities and assets and then assign resources to attack specific problems. Attendees talked of reading more and turning off the media noise.
Suggestions included better diets, more exercise, eliminating food deserts, improving schools and offering financial literacy classes. In addition, the solutions must include programs to address anger and direct people’s energy toward positive outcomes.
African-Americans have to learn to love themselves unconditionally so they can value and love others, too. The community also must contend with a “post-traumatic slave syndrome” that African-Americans face in which they put themselves down and belittle others like them.
It’s an outcome of similar parenting by generations of black people . The belittling and abuse in slavery was a way blacks protected family members from being sold off or sexually abused by white owners or overseers. But such parenting only limits the potential of African-Americans today.
We have to stop turning on each other and turn to each other for support and guidance. We have to turn our many can’ts and don’ts into try and do.
Such steps will elevate black people, this community and country to a sounder, more secure future.