Surely Dr. King asked, ‘Is It Good for the Children?’
- Category: Commentaries
- Published on Tuesday, 29 November -0001 18:00
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
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Special to the Tri-State Defender
(Reginald Johnson Sr. is Boys Incorporated Executive Director.)
There comes a time in ever adult’s life when to be silent is an act of betrayal. Over the last year as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silence and to speak from the burning of my own heart, I realized I could no longer sit idly by and asks, “What’s wrong with our children?”
| Reginald Johnson Sr. and his son Reginald Johnson Jr.|
As our local media showcased one disparity after another, I knew as a parent, church leader, and community activist, I had to do something. I began to ask myself, what is wrong with this picture. It’s not the children, they are just crying out for help, the only way they know how.
On August 19, 2009, Boys Incorporated was founded. Boys Incorporated is dedicated to preserving the lives of young elementary boys by providing them a safe harbor and an alternative to roaming the streets. One of its primary goals is to help foster and instill a sense of direction and purpose in their young lives.
Is it Good For the Children? That’s a question that I must ask myself every day as I develop the resources and services that will address the needs of our young boys. As I interact with them during the 12 weeks of our program, and the bonds of friendships are forged on the anvils of trust and respect, I notice the glaring need for the relationship with their fathers. Throughout the program, I become both mentor and father figure. So many of the boys I serve will grow up and never have contact or a relationship with their fathers. It is these young boys that are at a greater risk for falling prey to many of the social ills mentioned earlier.
During this month, we will celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If he were alive today, I wonder what would he think about the question: Is It Good For the Children?
I think this question is what kept him motivated to continue fighting for social justice and equality. He often mentioned children in his speeches and was a father himself. The most famous reference to children was in the “I Have A Dream Speech” where he stated: “I have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Dr. King knew that he was fighting for a brighter future for our children. He knew that although the struggle often took him away from his own children and placed him in harms way, that he had to continue on for their sakes. He fought and died so that we could enjoy many of the freedoms and privileges we have today. He fought and died so that we could then create greater opportunities and lives for our children.
At Mason Temple in Memphis, Dr. King gave his last speech, and he included these words:
“We have some difficult days ahead but it really doesn’t matter with me now because I have been to the mountain top. I have looked over and I have seen the promised land. I might not get there with you but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”
What did he see in the “promised land?”
Those chilling and profound words still echo the life work that must continue in order for our children to become the beneficiaries of the legacy that he left behind.
Dr. King gave his life that we – and our children – could make it to the promised land. And yet most of our children are unaware of the tremendous sacrifices that he and many others made in order for them to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In the promised land that Dr. King talked about is a land that is filled with opportunity and hope. It is a place where they are truly not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. In this promised land all children are treated with dignity, respect and fairness.
I am sure Martin asked himself this every time he went out the door to fight for our civil rights, every time he led a march, every time he spoke at an event. He had to ask himself, “Is it good for the children? Is it good for my children?”
Sometimes we have to make the hard choices. Sometimes we have to make the hard sacrifices.
Sometimes we have to give up our comfort. Sometimes we have to give of our finances.
Sometimes we have to give of our precious time.
As a father, I will continue to ask this question daily for my children.
As a community leader I will continue to ask this question daily for the young boys that I serve.
It is my hope and prayer that others within my community will join The Shelby County Ask First Campaign, and Boys Incorporated to bring education and awareness to the front lines of the fight to save our children.
Envision life through the eyes of a child in this city today! Then ask yourself, “Is it Good for the Children?”
This is one in a series of guest columns designed to focus public attention on issues that affect Memphis’ children. It is part of a Shelby County initiative to remind everyone, in every aspect of daily life, to “Ask first.. Is It Good for the Children?” For more information, go to www.shelbycountychildren.org or call 901-385-4224.