March 2, 2012
By Edward Chisolm
First of all, Happy New Year to all y’all! Secondly, it’s just a blessing to be 6 feet above ground to enjoy this new day with new mercies from God. So, let’s get down to business in this New Year. I would like to pick up on a theme my good friend Michael Porter laid out a couple of weeks ago about black churches adopting a neighborhood. Excellent idea! Here at Youth Futures we have been talking a similar talk. But I want to issue a companion challenge to our black churches as well as to the rest of us: tackling the issue of black teen pregnancies/births. First, let me said that this is not at all a criticism of black churches but an acknowledgement of our power, presence and absolute prestige in the black community. We are all accountable and we are all responsible for the conditions (positive and negative) we produce in our own communities. The Chatham Savannah Youth Futures Authority (YFA) is about to release its annual “Kids Matter Report,” a status report on the well being of children and youth in Chatham County. Based on the numbers, we doing well in some areas and not so well in others. One particularly troubling set of numbers are black teen pregnancies and births. This is nothing new but troubling nevertheless. The report will share the following: In 2009 there were a total of 178 teen pregnancies of girls between 15-17 years of age. Of that number, 131 of those pregnancies recorded occurred among African Americans and 22 among whites. That means, Black teens accounted for 51.2% of all teen pregnancies in this age group. In the same vain, there were a total of 479 teen births in this same age group with 311 births occurring among black teens (71%) and 85 (23.5%) among white teens. Clearly, this is an issue we have to get a handle on. In my humble opinion, the church is the most powerful organism on the face of the earth and the black church is without question or peer the most powerful, relevant and resourceful institution in the black community. In light of this fact, how powerful would it be for black pastors, preachers and prophets across this nation, across this community, across town, to stand together and declare a moratorium on teen pregnancies and births among black youth? To declare a suspension of this pandemic in our community. No, the church can’t do it all. It will take parents, community leaders, professionals, organizations, and the teens themselves to help. Would it not be equally powerful (not to mention a blessing) for pastors, preachers and prophets to consider organizing their sermons, bible studies, workshops, retreats, to address this issue collectively? Can you imagine the impact even 25 black churches could have if those spiritual leaders would take one quarter of the year (3 months) to 1) raise the black conscious level in the community on this issue; 2) to align their sermon messages to speak in a unified voice; 3) to align bible study lessons, Christian leadership meetings, Sunday school lessons, BTU lessons, Men’s bible study, youth bible study, women’s bible study, all focusing on this one issue? What a blessing it would be to put into practice the 3rd principle of Kwanzaa: Ujima-Collective Work and Responsibility. This means working together and pooling our resources. But first things first! We have to collectively speak to the issue. I am reminded of something Christ said, “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be moved and be cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believe those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says,” (Mark 11:23). In other words, we have to lend our collective voice to this issue. We have to speak to the mountain we call rampant teen pregnancy and teen births among our babies. The disparity between the black rate and white rates of both teen pregnancies and teen births will not go down until we reduce the black rate; plain and simple. The church is the only institution in the black community with the moral authority, the resources, and the captured audience to effectively deal with this issue. As Porter said, there is much work to be done in helping resolve issues plaguing black folks and there are more than enough black churches to help. The only point I would add to that excellent point is helping to train, equip and organize our churches to do so. I know I am certainly willing to step up and help do that. I am extending the technical assistance and the resources from the Youth Futures Authority and our partners to do so. The only question is weather there are any black churches (Bro. Porter) that’s willing to collectively take this issue on. I even have a proven, best practice model to deal with this for anyone who has an ear to hear. In fact, I will share this proven method on next week if the Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise. In the mean time, every 4 and a half minutes a baby is born to a teen mother. We have no time to waste and “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” How long did it take you to read this article?
Black Love, Black Peace & Black Power!