One of the prominent issues that has garnered massive attention in the United States of America (USA) is the issue of Black people in America. The Black Lives Matter movement has been a national focus for the past few years as a result of police killings and other incidents involving Black young men. Cries have emerged for better treatment, equality and opportunity to even the playing field and erase past discriminatory practices that have injured and severely handicapped Black people. I must say, I stand in agreement that not only should Black lives matter, but Black lives should be better not just in the USA but globally and locally.
In a country where we have Black majority rule, one could assert that there is no need to focus on the Black issues because Black people already have power and there are no oppressors who stand in the way of equality, opportunity or privilege. This may seem to be true on the surface, but the issue is complex and has to be approached with a historical understanding and perspective. Black lives matter – but Black lives not only need to matter, Black lives need to be better.
At the beginning of June, there was a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Black Wall Street massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I lived in Tulsa for several years and never realized the gravity and severity of the massacre that left as many as 300 people dead. Had I understood, I would have gone to the spot in Greenwood just to pay my respects and feel the historical pain of a people destroyed because of their race. I have been to the Greenwood area and in various parts of North Tulsa but never specifically to the spot where the incident occurred. This was a centerpiece of Black lives becoming better, which was shattered in one day.
In The Bahamas, we suffered the prolonged indignity of subjugation and exclusion that effectively kept the lives of Black people in a miserable substandard state for years. We have achieved majority rule, but it seems in both the USA and The Bahamas in many respects, there is a dichotomy that exists. We make progress in one area and at the same time regress in another area. We acquire opportunities in one area and fail to capitalize in other areas, and we squander opportunities by self-destructive actions that go unaddressed. Opportunities are increasing but Black people are being destroyed not from outside entities but from within. The same culture that is killing Black men in the USA is now killing our Black men in The Bahamas. If you have not noticed, there is a new culture of violence that has been unleashed on Black populations that is resulting in mass shootings, which are killing Black men in alarming numbers.
In major cities, the rap music industry has either led or contributed to a cycle of violence that seems unprecedented. Several rappers have been killed this year and mass shootings have occurred at numerous rap concerts and events. Some rappers are posting videos of themselves urinating or smoking on the graves of other rappers and gang members that have been killed. In some cities, it is not unusual for there to be between 50 and 100 shootings per weekend. In The Bahamas, we have seen the same gang phenomenon exhibited and the trend of mass shootings has escalated. This is not helping Black lives to be better.
I believe attention and intervention need to take place now, so that the lives of Black young men can be saved. Prominent celebrities and athletes need to speak on this issue and lead efforts to intervene before the current trends lead more Black men to the grave or the jail. I cannot say exactly what programs or methods should be used, but something needs to be done. On the local scene, we have a number of groups that are currently mobilizing to address this issue. Former gang leaders and members are coming together to determine the way forward and how to implement plans to change the current narrative.
Intervention is desperately needed – but so are prevention and inspiration. We must get to these young men before they get into this destructive culture because once they are in it, it is an absolute self-perpetuating dead end. We need to focus on education, business and entrepreneurship for Black young men because if the only thing they aspire to is gang and criminal life, then there is no viable future, and the beneficiaries of this behavior will be the cemetery and the prison. These are the young men we will need to restore the Black Wall Street, to lead families and businesses and take advantage of the opportunities people are demonstrating for. If we successfully demonstrate and demand equality, opportunity and justice, and the young men who the opportunities are created for are in jail or dead, the cycle will remain, and progress will be eluded. Let us make Black lives better by focusing in on the future and ensuring that our young men do not degenerate into lost souls who have no hope of redemption.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.