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My Turn, Scott Maddox: Salisbury has to get out of easy chair to address problems

By Scott Maddox

At least once a day as I travel around Salisbury, I see a “Cease Fire Salisbury” sign. My first thought each and every time I see one of these signs is sadness — sadness that our community has gotten to this point. The sign itself is nothing more than an attempt to draw people’s attention to the problem, a noble effort that if it stops one shooting is well worth it.

Unfortunately, the problem goes well beyond anything a sign can address. The solution isn’t an easy one, and not a problem that will be solved overnight. It is going to take the community banding together regardless of race, political affiliation or economic status. We are losing too many of our young people to senseless violence, especially in the Black community. For many, the problem doesn’t exist if it isn’t in their neighborhood, but the reality is death knows no color boundaries and neither should we. The death of even one young person should not be acceptable.

I don’t know the answer to solving the problem. I have ideas and they are different from the approach we have taken up to this point. For way too long, as adults, we have gotten together to discuss what it will take to stop it. What do our youth need to keep them from getting involved in gangs? What needs to change to make education a priority among those who choose crime instead of education? How can we give our young people hope and a brighter outlook for the future? This might make us feel better. Make us feel like we are trying to solve the problem. But the reality of this approach is it will not work.

If you think back to what it was like to be young, you know the last thing you wanted was some adult telling you what would make your life better. It really didn’t matter that what you were being told might be right; you didn’t want to hear it and weren’t going to listen plain and simple. Why would we think young people of today would be any different?

We are going to have to get of our metaphoric easy chair and muster the courage to go to the problems and seek answers. It’s time we stop being afraid and talk with the “gang” members and ask them the questions we should have been asking long ago. Questions like: what would have made you take a different path than the one you took, why is school such a struggle for you and what would make you feel like more a part of your community?

We need to talk to all young people, not just those who are teetering on the path of self destruction. Take the information we get and use that to develop a plan that meets the needs of the people we are trying to help. We have to put aside our biases and beliefs we have the answers and give young people a real stake in their own future. Will we be successful at saving everyone? No. It’s a process and that process is going to be littered with failure but we have to stay the course if we want things to change.

We have a few groups of people out there now who are working hard. People are hitting the streets and talking to the “gang” members and the other youth in our community. People like Man Up led by Rev. Tim Bates are in the trenches trying to make a difference. But they don’t have the funds or resources (manpower) to make the type of difference we need. It will take the community — a community willing to roll up its sleeves and get in the trenches.

It’s not an easy path to take; it’s scary especially if all you know about the young people who are drifting to a life of crime is what you read. Oh, there are some young people out there who are past help and are scary, but there are way more who aren’t bad people. They’re just dealing with their problems in the wrong way.

Hope comes from within and those looking for that hope need to be part of the solution in a meaningful way. Again, I don’t know the answer, and I don’t know how to get solutions like I spoke of above implemented. My hope is enough people will read this that does know how to take it to the next level that it can happen.

Scott Maddox lives in Salisbury.

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