Posts Tagged ‘Mentoring’

Save my Son

Posted: November 9, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

I’m watching “Save My Son” on TV ONE and its reminding me of what it was like growing up in Chicago with a limited lens of success.  When you grow up in the inner city your view of what’s a hero and success is warped.  The other day, I got into spirited debate on FB with someone I was in elementary school with on the merits of the teachings of the leader of a major street gang in Chicago.

His argument is that a man’s teachings should be independent of a man’s past actions or the actions of his organization.  If the laws of the organization are good then it’s not relevant that the organization has warped the views of those teachings.  He likened it to Christianity.  Christianity in itself is pure but so much bad has been done in its name.  My challenge to him was to at least show me a single organization that was doing inspiring things because of this man’s teachings.  I’m still waiting on an example.

This is important because children and especially young men don’t respect teachings that are not backed by actions.  They look at the life of the men behind the teachings.  If you have children and have ever thought or said, “Just do what I say and not what I do” you get the point.  Just as unscrupulous ministers can use the Word of God to achieve their worldly goals, I believe this man and his followers are doing the same with his teachings.  We are seeing the results of their leadership and it’s hard to fight.  I remember talking with my peers at the age 16.  Success to us was getting a nice used car with a nice sound system and maybe some nice wheels.  Note that this didn’t necessarily include moving out of your parent’s house. That was a bonus.

This was and I believe still is the definition of making it.  And what did the lives of the men that “made it” look like in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago?  Some had good jobs but the majority sold drugs.  When they achieved the goal of buying their nice used care with “rims and sounds” they were honored in the same way you’d honor someone at work for getting a big promotion.  They’d get slapped on the back and congratulated and other men would look at it and the vicious cycle would continue.

We couldn’t see the world beyond the borders of our neighborhood.  I’d sit and have conversations with my cousins on how we’d make it and continue to live in the hood.  There’s nothing wrong with living in the

Don Thompson – CEO MacDonald’s Corp

This is what was so inspiring about the TV program I watched tonight. Dr. Steve Perry has always impressed me as a dedicated educator but he gave a great framework for what’s needed to snatch our young men from the influence of these people.  Young men need other men to look up to and push and inspire them.  They need purpose and a feeling of family.  Both examples I saw tonight were inspiring.  I know that it takes a lot more than what was provided in the few days he was involved in their lives but it was still a great framework for success.

neighborhood that we grew up in but we just couldn’t see beyond it.  So, when a man who leads an organization of thousands of men gives you hope backed with a message that seems principled then I can understand the desire to follow. But they’ve had years and years of leadership in these neighborhoods and not much has changed in a positive way.

This is why the success of men like Collin Powell, Barack Obama and MacDonald’s CEO Don Thompson is so inspiring.  They are the difference in what true hope and change looks vs. a marriage of hope.  They help to provide visions of what possible for minorities who with some help and hard work are able to reach the highest levels of success in our nation.  But as I look back on my own life I realize that it’s not easy.  I had my mom and dad and a slew of social program and church to help mold me into the man that grew beyond the boundaries of the neighborhood.

Chicago – A call to mentor as a solution to violence

Posted: August 14, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

Classic 60th Wood Street Block Party

It seems like every day I cringe before looking at the news. It’s some story how some poor family in Chicago lost another child to senseless violence. I grew up in these neighborhoods. I was raised on 60th and Wood St. which is in Englewood, one of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods. I was blessed beyond measure.

I had a mother that was spiritual and taught me to love God more than myself. And, I had a father that would walk until his feet bleed to provide for his children. I was gifted with the ability to comprehend difficult analytical concepts which lead to a successfully career with computers. The combination has taught me how to be a father and the importance of investing physically, spiritually and emotionally into my children.

But the further I get from Wood St. the more I’m reminded that I had a friend in grammar school named Simon (not real name). He was my best friend because he was a geek like me. He had a vivid imagination he had charisma. We would talk about everything from Transformers to computers, girls and school for hours on end. The kid was just as bright if not brighter than me. But, I knew Simon’s home life wasn’t very good.

A few years later Simon wasn’t that good kid I remembered. He turned into someone that I wouldn’t otherwise have as a friend. This was a good hearted kid that grew up to be someone who no longer contributed to society in the way that was expected given his potential. He was me without my dad. These same young men today are causing this very same violence and continuing the cycle of poor parenting.

I have a responsibility to my old neighborhood. I wouldn’t move my family back to 60th in Wood unless God called me to do so but, I still need to give back. I’ve decided to start actively mentoring kids like Simon, young men who have the potential to do great things and be proud graduates of the block. But not just kids like Simon. I find that I have to force my way into other father’s lives.

I’ve gotten into debates with friends and others about how to solve the complex problems we have in our community. Some want the government to intervene, some think we need more formal social programs, better schools more opportunity. All those things are good and can help but they aren’t THE solution to the problem.

The solution is for men like my dad(R.I.P.), Lawrence Peterson(R.I.P.), my brothers and a host of other men that I know that are great examples of fathers to effect change. Guys like these are the ones that kids like Simon need involved in their lives. But they (we) need to get involved in their parent’s lives as well. It takes men to call other men to a standard. But, if I’m not a friend to Simon how can I call him to a standard?

This is what Jesus’ message was about. This is the physical act of love. I can’t sit back and watch an entire community struggle (my community at that) and just shake my head and say it’s a shame. What I should be ashamed of is that I haven’t had anyone in my home that’s struggling with being a good father. How do I affect change if everyone I socialize with is just like me?