I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper

Dear Editor:

This past Sunday I was blessed to participate in Men’s Day 2017 at New Faith Free Methodist Church. For the fourth year in a row, I was able to be a part of such an auspicious celebration honoring a few public servants within our very own community. The small church, packed with worshipers, assembled under one common theme:  “Men of Faith Striving for Stronger Brotherhood.”

Our guest speaker for the morning, St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway, brought a truly uplifting and inspiring word. His message was centered on the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The chief asked some pretty tough questions in his message and he challenged the entire church to delve deeper into the roles as believers and citizens. It’s safe to say that some may have felt a little uncomfortable, but after all, sometimes the truth hurts.

Oftentimes we use words carelessly, not thinking about the impact our words may have on others. We give folks what they want to hear, not necessarily what they need to know. This unhealthy practice has led to a broken and divided culture.

As a black man living in a white-male dominated society, the thing that seems to hurt me the most is when I see members of our village tearing one another down with their words and actions.  It’s almost like we’ve gotten comfortable living with a “crab in the bucket” mentality.

A people who were once independent and united against injustice and intolerance, have now become ostracized by one another. In times like these, how do we get back to being that village that once looked out for our brothers and sisters?

An entire generation has been pitted against each other and fooled into believing that in this life it’s every man for himself. There used to be a time when neighbors looked out for each other. There was a time when the church went outside of their four walls and into the community to make a difference in the lives of those in need.  Some may recall the days when children actually respected their teachers and their elders. What happened to those days?  What happened to our village?

At Sunday’s service, the chief reminded us of those days. He also reminded us that we have an obligation to each other. We each share in the call to transform the communities that we’ve vested so much of our time, talent and treasures into.

Too many businesses in south St. Pete have failed because we failed to support them. Too many of our young black men are incarcerated today because we choose to turn the other cheek when we saw them doing wrong. Too many homes have been knocked down and boarded-up simply because we didn’t fight to preserve our rich history.

In 2012, President Barack Obama challenged an entire nation to start looking out for a brother when he launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. The task force quickly got to work by launching programs in cities across the nation that were aimed at breaking down the barriers our youth face and bringing communities of color closer together.

The City of St. Petersburg’s Not My Son campaign works in partnership with the St. Petersburg Police Department to fight crime in our neighborhoods by promoting positive achievement amongst young males between the ages of 12-24. Programs like this help to establish trust and an open line of communication between our police and those they are sworn to protect.

These measures are all well and fine, but what good do they pose to our youth if the life skills being taught aren’t reciprocated in the home? The real change starts at home.  If our world is to ever be a better place, we must first get our houses in order.

Our children learn from us and emulate our actions. That’s why we must lead by example and be willing to correct one another when we are wrong, but do so out of love.  The proverb says, “Charity begins at home,” and certainly unconditional Christian love ought to abide there as well.

Being your brother’s and sister’s keeper doesn’t mean you have to be a blood relative, it just means you have to have compassion and empathy for your fellow man. It means you care enough to put aside the individual “me” for a collective “we.”

Being your brother’s and sister’s keeper extends far beyond race, social class or zip code. Being your brother’s and sister’s keeper might even mean raising a child that doesn’t belong to you. Being your brother’s and sister’s keeping requires you to step out on faith and do what’s right, even in times of adversity.

So my question to you today is, “Are you your brother’s and sister’s keeper?”

God bless,

Corey Givens Jr.

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