Op/Ed: CALL TO ACTION: We Can't Let Our Young People Starve!
(BALTIMORE - June 3, 2008) - As I watched the news last night, I was moved by the actions of a group of young people from Baltimore who launched a hunger strike as a last effort to force the City of Baltimore to provide $3 million dollars in support of a youth initiative that would employ older youth in Baltimore to tutor young children. These young warriors – the epitome of youth development - are dynamic, articulate, and engaged in a righteous fight for justice. Their actions and behavior are in direct contrast to another group of older youth who also made the news last night for their viscous attack against a young barbering student last week.
As I sat watching the two stories, the urgency in the demands of the young people participating in the hunger strike pulled my heart strings as did the response of our City leaders. I heard the following comments from our City leaders: “The money has been allocated. We don’t have $3 million dollars. We’re willing to work with the young people if they will compromise.” And I wondered why should our young people have to compromise? These young people are our leaders today. Why can’t we – the adults – figure out a way to invest in them?
Although the City of Baltimore may not have the funds to support another youth initiative, it has access to wealthy business partners who might contribute financial support if they were asked. Corporations, production companies, developers, and investors - like the Ritz-Carlton, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, Inc., the Marriott, Constellation Energy, the producers of the WIRE, and HBO - could easily write-off the expense of another youth initiative in Baltimore without it ever having to be a burden on the City’s “rainy day” budget. If one were to do the math, only 20 corporations, production companies, businesses, developers, foundations, and investors would need to contribute $150,000 to support the youth initiative as proposed by the young people on the hunger strike. A sponsorship of $150,000 by 20 corporations, businesses, developers, and investors could easily turn into a win-win situation and an awesome long-term investment for everyone in this city.
As Baltimore transcends into a city of renaissance, its leaders must think outside the box in terms of supporting a variety of viable initiatives to provide positive youth development for the older youth and children of this City. We need to ask our City leaders to rethink their response to these young people. I hope you will join me in taking the following actions in their support:
Email and/or call City Council members (the email addresses are above/telephone number is 410.396.3100). Ask City Council to find 20 corporations, production companies, businesses, developers, foundations and/or investors doing business in Baltimore to invest $150,000 to support the youth initiative as proposed by the young people of Peer to Peer Youth Enterprises;
Email and/or call the Mayor’s office (the email address is above/telephone number is 410-396-3100). Ask Mayor Dixon to work with the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Partnership, other quasi-governmental agencies, and commercial partners to invest $150,000 to support the youth initiative as proposed by the young people of Peer to Peer Youth Enterprises;
Forward this email to at least five other people. Ask family, friends, and colleagues to email and/or call City Hall and to forward this email to at least five other people.
Pray. Pray that we, adults, step up and take more responsibility for taking action to alter the educational and economic realities of the young people in this City. Pray for the health and safety of our young people. Pray for more economic and educational opportunities for the parents and caregivers of the youth of this City.
We all have a responsibility for enhancing the lives of children and youth in Baltimore. These young people who are participating in this hunger strike have organized and come together with an impressive plan. They deserve to have nourishment for their bodies, minds, and spirits. Let us – adults - come together and fulfill our obligation to them.