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Mitchell: Adults owe black teens an apology, activist says

Enoch Muhammad reading "The Apology" to group of male students at Dunbar.

When you ask community activists what more can be done to stop the violence, most mention youth employment and programs to keep teens off the streets.

But one group advocates taking a dramatically different approach.

“We cannot successfully alter behavior with gun turn-in programs, basketball tournaments and summer jobs alone,” says Enoch Muhammad, one of the co-founders of Hip-Hop DetoxX, a non-profit youth organization that uses hip-hop and pop culture to teach teens healthy behavior.

“We need a block-by-block, porch-by-porch approach where you can get into dealing with the families,” he said.

Muhammad argues that too many young people are growing up in toxic environments because of chemical imbalances, such as alcohol and drug use, and the trauma of child molestation and family abandonment.

This year, Hip-Hop DetoxX is celebrating its 10th anniversary. To mark the milestone, the organization is launching what it calls “The Apology” campaign.

OPINION

The 17-point apology targets parents born after 1965 and includes:

“not wanting to be a parent even though I wanted to have sex;

not staying with you and your mother and taking care of my responsibilities;

Being a modern day slave stud, making babies and not having a care as to whom they are and how they are doing;

being a follower of trends and pop culture and not a leader where I make decisions based on your health, interest, rights, needs and virtues;

Muhammad and Hip-Hop DetoxX co-founder Kesha Wells went to Dunbar Vocational Career Academy on Thursday and read the apology aloud to two small groups of male and female students.

Afterward, Muhammad asked the young men if they accepted his apology.

They all did, though one student objected to the negativity Muhammad cited.

“This whole thing seems like a stereotype,” he said. “People face these things, but not everyone.”

Another student disagreed, saying things are getting worse in his neighborhood.

“If there were positive role models in everybody’s life, it wouldn’t be so bad,” he said.

The female students weighed in separately on “The Apology.” Two of them, both sophomores, said they wouldn’t accept an apology from the adults who have disappointed them.

“I feel like, once a bridge is burned, that’s it,” one said.

Another young woman pointed out how teenage pregnancy has contributed to the problems.

“They didn’t get a chance to grow up,” she said, “so they want to party and do what their kids do. They didn’t have time to raise their kids.”

Devona Hazelwood, a Dunbar dean who is also the high school’s “social and emotional learning coordinator, said programs like Hip-Hop DetoxX are needed because many students don’t have a good support system at home.

“In some instances, basic needs are not being met on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

As one of the students at the Hip-Hop DetoxX session put it, we live in a half-and-half world.

We shouldn’t forget that, despite how things seem, a lot of parents are instilling moral values and supervising their children.

But we also can’t ignore that too many parents are failing their kids in all the ways noted in the “The Apology.”

Thanks to Hip-Hop DetoxX’s bold campaign, maybe we’ll be able to get more of these parents to see the need for change.

“It starts with an apology that has, tied with it, determined action and healing,” Muhammad said.