Detroit alone has seen 275 violent deaths so far this year, according to FBI statistics, and there are more than five months to go before 2007.
Eric Porter, program director for the Young Male Demonstration Project, said students often become involved in violence because they come from broken homes.
“What is often overlooked are their backgrounds, upbringing and level of self-esteem,” Porter said.
These are among the problems that contribute to young Black males succumbing to violence.
“We don't realize how one's environment impacts them,” he said. “Young men need guidance. If they do not have a father in their life, then they need to have (some other) positive male figure because otherwise they will look for that support (elsewhere).
“We have people that rally at protests and organize walks to stop violence, but they never look at the factors that can contribute to one getting involved in violence.”
Those factors can include unemployment, lack of education, and coming from a single-parent home.
Frank McGhee, former director of the Youth Initiatives Project, a part of the Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO), said, “We have to start young. We have to occupy their time and get them involved in activities. With youth who live in impoverished areas, we have to show them an alternative so that they will not resort to violence to solve their problems.”
“In many cases, adults are involved in violence because they do not know of an alternative,” he continued. “They do not know how to handle the pressure and the stress of issues that arise every day. Since they never experienced life outside of their comfort zone, they think they will never be able to get past their current situation.”
McGhee noted that people often look to well-known figures to help fill a void in their lives. While he does not blame all entertainers — not just rappers, but basketball players and actors as well — McGhee said that some glorify negative images and perpetuate stereotypes that encourage violence.
Much of the concern comes from the alarming number of murders in Detroit. And according to the FBI, last year there were more than 300 homicides in Michigan.
Groups rallied to encourage the reduction of violence when rapper Proof was killed in April. Groups also turned out to speak out against violence after a church shooting a few weeks later. The shooting resulted in three deaths, including the gunman and two others.
Sherry Collins, a social worker, agreed that low self-esteem, low-income environments and violent images promoted by certain groups of entertainers all play a major role in violence that is too often acted out by young Black males.
“We need positive (forces) in the community to step up and address the issues,” Collins said. “We need Black men to address the issues among other Black males because they will not listen to a woman.”
Collins works with people who are transitioning from jail.
“People often tell me that they linked up with the wrong people, and since they did not have a different way to go, they hung around them,” Collins said.
“Low-self-esteem contributes to violence tremendously. If they do not believe that people care about them, they go along with whoever comes first that shows love. They may also become so angry because love was not displayed to them that they take their anger out on other people.”
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