While I wrote this in New Jersey I believe it applies everywhere.
It’s time to stop preaching to the choir when it comes to black on black crime.
My wife I had the privilege to attend a prayer service for black men gunned down by police on Monday Night (12/29/2014). There were many clergy and some elected officials from Roselle, Elizabeth, Hillside, and Plainfield at this service. At that prayer service in Roselle NJ put together by the Rev. David Ford at the St. Matthew Baptist Church, I heard many great speakers discuss issues in the African American community.
Because it was an open and honest dialogue black on black crime was mentioned, and our responsibility to address and deal with it were discussed. Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley gave a great speech about the need for parents to step up instill values in their kids and to value education. Myrtle Counts the head of the Roselle NAACP gave an impassioned speech about that yes black lives matter but that they must also value to us as African Americans. Rev. Ford mentioned not wanting to live in a world without police but wanting to have good and respectful police. I heard councilwoman Tracey Brown of Plainfield lament the fact that she had done over a hundred eulogy in 2014 and most of those were young people.
As I looked around I saw the nodded heads and heard the Amens and shouts of yes. But I also noticed something else as I looked around, as great as the speakers were the message they were delivering didn’t need to be given to the fifty or so people in the church. They were preaching to the choir.
What good is a great and possibly life-saving message if the people that need to hear it don’t hear it?
We as elected officials, clergy, and community leaders need to take the message that yes black lives matter, but they have to matter to us too from the churches and meeting halls to the streets. Delivering that message won’t be easy but nothing worth doing ever is. I don’t pretend to have all the answers on how to do that but if we all work together, I’m sure that many do.
It’s imperative that we get out there and deliver that message. As an elected official, I’m ready to do my part and hope that others will do the same. Our children’s lives depend on it.
George L. Cook III, president Hillside NJ Board of Education