Our village

Corey Givens

Dear Editor:

We’ve all heard the old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Contrary to popular belief, this phrase could not be any truer for African-American youth growing up in 2017.

It’s the responsibility of the entire village to work together to ensure that the neighborhoods we’re raising our children in are safe, free of drugs, violence and crime. It’s imperative that we support our youth and provide them with a world-class education beginning with early childhood education, primarily in areas with high poverty rates and high dropout rates.

I believe it’s safe to assume that education is among the leading civil rights issues of our time. The only problem is many of our leaders fail to recognize this.

Learning isn’t a latent process, it starts once a child is born. The planning for learning begins long before birth; nevertheless, we deprive our children of the opportunity to perform at their highest level when we, as adults, are constantly replaying the false narrative that alludes to south Pinellas schools as being “failure factories.”

Our children are not products and they certainly are not failures. The youth growing up today need a renewed sense of hope and leadership that celebrates their determination to succeed and make a better life for their families.

The United States Department of Education’s Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships released a tool that was aimed at raising educational standards within predominately African- American communities. The tool is filled with assets that distinguish how families, cities and spiritual leaders can cooperate to guarantee that communities of color are built up, not torn down.

For years our spiritual and community leaders have been the most vocal proponents for supporting quality early childhood education. Now, I charge each and every member of our “village” to do your part by becoming more engaged and involved with your child’s education. Don’t wait for an issue to arise or for the camera lights to turn on. Become a more proactive citizen today. The future of our babies depends on your willingness to do so!

My mother was a single parent with three children attending three separate schools within Pinellas County. However, our village was always there to step up and fill in the gaps when she could not. I learned at a very early age that you don’t have to be related to lend a helping hand.

My siblings and I were blessed to have so many villagers who looked out for us along the way and made sure we stayed out of trouble. Whether it was our aunties, neighbors, teachers or coaches, someone was always looking out for us.

Sadly, many of the kids growing up in St. Pete today don’t have that luxury. Too many broken homes across our village have diminished our quality of life as we know it. The time has come for our village to unite and reinvest in the things we once took pride in as a city: our economy, our education system, our neighborhoods and our families.

As downtown St. Pete continues to boom with businesses and high rises, and west St. Petersburg continues to thrive, we need to cultivate our own village and ensure that south St. Petersburg doesn’t get left behind.

God bless,
Corey Givens Jr.

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