Men of Baltimore:
Our children are dying in our streets, and too many of us are silent in words and actions. What will it take for us to wake up and realize that we have the power to save our communities if we step out of the shadows and into the lives of Baltimore's youth?
Baltimore has made tremendous progress in reducing violent crime. I grew up in Park Heights during the '90s — Baltimore's darkest hour. This March, homicides were the lowest total of any month in my lifetime. Even so, while the days of 350-plus homicides in Baltimore are long gone, the battle is far from won.
Recently, we saw the lives of three young people tragically cut short in separate incidents on the streets of Baltimore by gun-wielding cowards. Senseless violence is always troubling, but when it impacts the lives of our youth, it leads one to ask many questions. For me, one question is most glaring: Where are the men?
Our schools, extracurricular programs, churches and streets are filled with young people — specifically young men — who are begging for positive adult male interaction. However, for some unthinkable reason, programs and schools alike across our city struggle to identify men willing to mentor or volunteer.
I know what you are thinking: The city needs more recreation centers, better schools and more youth programs. You are right. We do, and there has been and continues to be great progress on these fronts.
Baltimore City secured an unprecedented $1.1 billion in school construction funds to replace and renovate some of the state's oldest school buildings. Last year, the brand new Rita Church Recreation Center opened in the Clifton Park community, and plans were unveiled for a new recreation center in Cherry Hill, just blocks from where one of the young men was brutally murdered last month.
These are just a few examples of the work being done to improve the quality of life for Baltimore's youth, and it's far from over. However, new schools, new recreation centers and more programs will never be enough. Only when we commit to engage in our communities and in the lives of our young people will we see the ills of youth violence disappear.
The tragic deaths of these young men should serve as a gut check for every man in Baltimore, regardless of race, age or socioeconomic status. It's time to step up or shut up.
I charge every able-bodied man in Baltimore to look in the mirror and ask himself, What have you done for your community lately? What positive impact have you had on a child's life recently? Are you a part of the problem or the solution?
Commenting on Facebook, ranting on Twitter, or sending emails will not solve the problem. Writing a check is not enough. Our young people are in need of your time, attention and sweat equity more now than ever.
It's also time for all of us to take a good look at those around us and check them too. If you are surrounded by men who are not willing to give a portion of their time to invest in the well being and future of our young people, then I suggest you reassess that friendship. Maybe it has run its course.
Our children are dying, and we must save them. Men of Baltimore, what are you going to do? Are you going to answer the call? Or are you going to remain silent and invisible?
Brandon M. Scott is a Baltimore City councilman. His email is Brandon.Scott@baltimorecity.gov.
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