By Tiya Cunningham-Sumter
My husband nearly gave me a panic attack when he came home and shared how he had just told a young man to pull up his pants, which had been sagging well beneath his behind. My first reaction was to search for bruises on my husband as I just knew this could not have gone well.
I wondered how the young man responded and whether or not he had cursed my poor husband out. I am not sure if this is a problem all over the country, but in Chicago, sagging pants, along with a host of other negative behaviors from teens have created a division among us. It has become an unfortunate fad that doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. My concern for my husband’s safety stems from my unfortunate fear of today’s youth. When I was growing up we had respect for the adults in our communities. It never crossed our minds to be disrespectful, swear in front of an adult or do anything that could somehow get back to our parents. It was a healthy fear of adults we had back then. Today, I often see teens being loud, rude and having no regard for what they say or how they conduct themselves in front of adults. So when my husband tells me what he said, naturally I panic.
Fortunately, the young man responded in kind, by saying “okay.” Of course not pulling his pants up right away, but the “okay” was much better than the alternative. My husband regretted not saying more. He felt as though he should have had a conversation with the young man. Maybe to get a better understanding and to explain the perception adults have with this trend; and just the overall importance of looking respectable. Knowing my husband, that will be his next step.
However, it’s not just the sagging pants. It feels like it’s us against them (adults against teens). It feels as though we are losing them; there is an absolute disconnect. What is often heard in various circles, amongst other parents and in work environments are complaints about our young people.
“Look how they dress.”
“These kids today have no respect for themselves or others.”
“They just don’t care about life.”
Yes, of course we have our own lives and our own children to take care of, but we are losing a generation and all most of us are doing is just talking about it. I rarely hear solutions. I am also speaking for myself. I have allowed my fear to hold me back from sharing wisdom with the young people in my community. I have been so concerned with their reaction that I have not taken action. There are situations where teens today don’t live in ideal situations and are not being taught properly in the home. So while we may be ready to place all the blame on the teen, we have to also consider the parent, who just might need our help. Can we do well while our brothers and sisters suffer? We must be a blessing to others. Quincy Jones said it best: “My piece of bread only belongs to me when everyone else has a piece. ”
It is not enough to gripe about it amongst our friends, it is time to take action and save our teens.
Movements you can join:
- http://www.mentoring.org/ By clicking on the “Become a Mentor” tab, you can insert your zip code and find programs in your area.
- One Million Mentor tour started by Michael Baisden was a great program in 2010 that in just 7 months hit 72 cities. Click this link to learn more http://www.onemillionmentors.com/
- Big Brothers Big Sisters www.bbbs.org
- Boys & Girls’ Club of America http://bgca.org/Pages/index.aspx
Movements you can start:
- Invite a young person to your church.
- Start a corner ministry. Every day I pass by this corner in a neighborhood nearby where there is quite often a group their praying for their neighborhood.
- Mentor to a single parent child. If there is a fatherless or motherless child that you know, take an opportunity to encourage him/her. You never know how your teachings could benefit their future.
- Motivate your circle to get involved. Maybe together you can create a scholarship fund, or plan a trip for disadvantaged teens in your area.
- Host a workshop for teens. Provide information that encourages planning for the future. College bound workshops, along with financial planning and preparing for professional success can all be great workshops for children who haven’t thought about their future. It allows them to see what is possible.
- Use your career. Whatever career you have, I am sure it is one that can benefit a young person.
- Share your story. There are plenty of us who come from humble beginnings, why not share your story of success with others who may be unable to see light at the end of the tunnel.
BMWK, what are your thoughts on how we can reach our young people?
Tiya Cunningham-Sumter is a Certified Life & Relationship Coach, Founder of Life Editing. Tiya was featured in Ebony Magazine in the October 2008 and November 2010 issues. Tiya recently created and launched (Tuesdays with Tiya) Life Editing Radio show on blogtalkradio.com. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two children.
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