As tears streamed down my eyes I asked myself for the thousandth time why? I was looking at a scene that is familiar to many of us: teens and adults gathered in mourning around candles and teddy bears to mourn the senseless death of another young kid gone too soon. I have seen scenes like this on the news almost every day over the past year and it always made me upset and angry but I never thought it would hit this close to home.
I won’t sugar coat it and pretend he was a model citizen, because he wasn’t. He was just 20 years old but had already been to jail for a year and was still living that life when he came out. He wasn’t some big-time drug dealer, didn’t have a car or jewelry- he just dealt enough to get by. Despite all that he was a sweet kid: he was quiet, always had a smile and never caused a problem- he put his head down and went about his business.
Sadly he was in the wrong business and that’s the real tragedy. As everyone gathers to mourn all these kids no one is addressing the real issue: a majority of these kids have no role models, guidance or outlets to pass the time. These teens think they are living the life they see in the movies: these days everyone has a gun and they all want to prove they’re the next big thing.
Problem is, real life seldom ends up like the movies. No one is invincible and for every Jay Z or 50 cent that manages to turn their life around there is a Tupac or Biggie, gunned down before their lives truly had a chance to begin. Life on the streets is far from glamorous: it is scary and filthy. Yes, you can make big money, but odds are you will be in jail or dead before you get the chance to enjoy it.
As adults we need to focus on ways to help these kids, because clearly enough is not being done. Every night I see the cops patrolling the parks in my neighborhood in Sunset, Brooklyn. They slow down to see what the kids are doing, then pass on. If the city is already spending money to have them watch the parks and the kids are already hanging out there in the dark, why not put the parks to good use? Keep the parks open and the lights on so theses kids can play basketball or handball. They are congregating there anyway, so why not give them a positive way to spend their time there. I am not naive enough to think this alone will change things, but step by step we can try to turn things around. Kids today have nothing: parks close early, roller rinks are long gone and the bowling alleys are closing one by one.
I watch these kids play handball and basketball all day and a lot of them play until it gets dark and they can’t. Kids WANT things to do: fun things that keep them busy and off the streets. We are responsible for taking them from babies to adults: at the rate they are dying we are not doing a good job. We need to realize that our youth will continue down this path to nowhere unless we give them a new path.