Dear Ray Lewis,

First of all, let me say you are an unbelievable football player and leader. Ever since 1996 when Ozzie Newsome first drafted you, you've been Baltimore's greatest football player ever, leading the Baltimore Ravens into the Super Bowl in 2000 and making some amazing plays during your second Super Bowl victory in 2013. Ray, your legacy is safe in the eyes of fans of the game like myself. Continue to be great and continue to enlighten us with your analysis of the game on ESPN, which we love.


But there's one piece of advice I'd like to give you, a piece of very important advice. Ray, if you're going to veer away from football to discussing complex social issues facing the African American community, you've got to educate yourself on the facts.

You recently posted a video on Facebook shining light on a very important issue: violence in African American communities around the country. And you're right in stating that "all lives matter." But when you suggested in your video that the Black Lives Matter movement should focus on "black on black" violence instead of police misconduct issues and racial disparities in policing, many of us were perplexed. That's the equivalent of chastising supporters who advocate for breast cancer treatment by saying that they should care more about heart disease; both are very important health issues, and neither should be neglected for the other.

Furthermore, you verbally attacked a movement that is bringing awareness to important issues that have plagued black communities across America for decades. Violence in the African-American community is something that we must address strongly. It's devastating the lives of children and families all across our land. And I agree with you that we definitely must take the lead in solving this problem. But not once on your Facebook infomercial did you mention poverty, education, unemployment or mental health as being among the underlying factors regarding violence in the community. And by not mentioning these important factors, you neglected a very important part of the discussion.

I'm not the voice for Black Lives Matter, but I am an advocate for us working together to make lives better for everyone in our community. Black on black crime gets a lot of attention in the media, but the reality is that crime is real and far too high in races across America.

There are black men everywhere standing up to injustices as well as violence in our communities every day, and we'd love for you to join us in this fight. There are literally dozens of organizations in Baltimore working in the streets addressing violence in our communities, hundreds of people passionate about reducing crime. I'd really like to introduce you to some good folks here in Baltimore like Dayvon Love and Adam Jackson from Leaders for A Beautiful Struggle, which works to transform Baltimore through policy action; or Sonja Sohn, actress from "The Wire" and founder of Rewired for Change, which works to empower young people in marginalized communities. I can introduce you to Baltimoreans like filmmaker Bobby Holmes and author D. Watkins who both use stories to enlighten others about the struggle and the work being done in the trenches. Again, we'd love for you to join us in this fight.

Lastly I'd like to make one more point. You made a statement in your Facebook video that we've got to operate in the same level of unity that we had in slavery. "Slavery was about togetherness and understanding that we must overcome, together," you said. I pondered this for minute or two before realizing the remark made no sense, whatsoever. I'm certain that you didn't mean any harm, but statements like that definitely have the potential to do much harm. We have to stop comparing events, issues and situations to slavery in America. Slavery was one of the most horrific eras in the history of our being. I understand where you were trying to go regarding "unity," but you didn't make it there. What you did was water down the most traumatic era in this country for Africa Americans while trying to bring legitimacy to your ill-advised attack on Black Lives Matter.

The era of social justice we live in now in America is very complex. What we need now is more people on the front lines addressing the issues head on and less people making Facebook videos from home.

Kevin Shird is author of the memoir "Lessons of Redemption" and a youth advocate. His email is kevin.shird@yahoo.com.