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KEEPING OUR CHILDREN ALIVE

June 5, 2014

On May 17th at a local high school in Prince Georges County Maryland, a symposium was hosted by me and my wife to educate teenagers, young adults and their parents about avoiding situations that could alter their life. In response to the killing of Trevon Martin and Jordan Davis, we felt such a proactive program was needed for our kids.

We were fortunate to have the HBO award winning writer and director of the film THE TOMBS come from New York to participate in a panel discussion and to show his 20 minute film. Jerry LaMothe has won many awards for his thought provoking films but this film was pertinent in that it emotionally showed the story of a man going through the police station after being arrested and being detained until arraignment. It showed our audience the pitfalls of our legal system especially when one is devoid of money and resources. The other panel members included a pastor, a defense attorney, a representative from The National Action Network, police officers from the District of Columbia and Prince Georges County as well as representatives from the States Attorney office and a delegate from the State of Maryland government.

Often when attending discussion panels the question that arises is “what are we going to DO about it?’ Talking is fine but it gets you nowhere if there is no action. The action that I had to take before the program could emerge was exhausting. I had to find a venue, design and print flyers, pull together a panel of volunteers who would commit, and advertise. I starting getting the program off the ground about 3 months prior. Hitting the pavement to barbershops, salons, car washes, store fronts and grocery stores throughout the northern part of the county was hard and time consuming work. Talking to school counselors and principals, visiting the post office many times to send out posters and flyers were part of the commitment. Then there was the financial cost. Ever wonder why a budget always gets out of whack? I figured the total cost would be about $1000. The rule of thumb is to take your projected cost and simply double it. The $2,000.00 came out of my pocket and this event was FREE to the public. There was never any plan on making money out of this venture- it was a service to the community. Doing a little suffering never hurt anyone. Do you believe that it is better to give than to receive? Producing such an event will test your belief in this statement. In fact I would suggest you try a test on your morality: Instead of putting one or five or even ten dollars in the plate at church, just once, write a check for double or triple the amount you usually put in or write a check to your kid’s school PTA for any amount you can afford or donate some time to any worthwhile venture and see how you feel. I can tell you that the reward is a private one between you and your maker. It gives your mortality meaning in the sense that before you pack your bags and leave this planet, you know you have tried to do something GOOD. I am going to tell you another secret (and this is really weird) once you try giving without the expectation of receiving, it becomes addictive. You’ll want to give more and more.

So what did we take home from this symposium? I learned that the teenagers and young adults today live in a digital world. To make an impact on them YOU have to enter that digital world. The movie was very intriguing to the kids but once our panel of esteemed professionals began our discussion, you could see the kids tuning out. On came the smart phones and away began the texting and video watching. As the older generations, we need to connect to the young folks through the visual media; auditory connection is dead.

It’s the same reason your teens don’t want to place an old fashion phone call anymore. They need to see the communication either by the visual words or pictures. Hence, wouldn’t it be great for the social activists, politicians and community leaders to hook up with the new generation of movie makers and present messages via the visual-digital world. This may not necessarily be 90 minute movies (although that’s all good too) but shorts can go viral on Vines and U-Tube and Facebook and the like. Kids love comedy; even though our messages are more serious than watching Kevin Hart, we have to inject some comedy in our presentations. The nice thing about the internet is that to produce an influential piece of entertainment you don’t have to go through an agent and spend gobs of money.

There are some practical things we “took home” from the adult discussion however:

  1. It is not against the law to record any encounter with a police officer (Maryland law) although most of the panel thought this may provoke the officer and advised against it.
  2. After putting on blinkers and slowing down, you have the right to drive to a well-lit place when pulled over by a police.
  3. It is best to turn the interior lights on in the car when pulled over by police at night.
  4. If you are associated with a group and one member of the group is charged with anything illegal (drug or handgun possession) you will likely be charged as well and will have to report to the police station until the details of the individual encounter is straightened out. It does not mean that you will have an arrest record if you are released.
  5. It is not conclusive that oral sex (alone) can spread HIV.
  6. IF you choose to smoke marijuana, it is better to be caught on campus as a student than out in the community. However, it is important for the parents and students to know in depth the consequences of this action at student orientation. Even if you are in a state that has legalized the drug remember that if you are under 21 it is still illegal.
  7. Although criticized as almost “bowing down” to a police officer, it was agreed that teens exemplify respectful behavior when interacting with a police officer. Often, but not always, this may avoid harassing situations like auto searches or pat downs.
  8. Further discussion groups like this should include teens on the panel to keep their attention.
  9. Further discussion groups like this should have teachers on the panel. So start you own panel discussion groups at your school. I think the principal and PTA groups would be amenable.

Time restraint kept us from getting to other pertinent questions. Overall, (especially with the movie) most thought the program to be valuable and worthwhile. Many parents said to me “we have to do this again.”

So start you own panel discussion groups at your school. I think the principal and PTA groups would be amenable.

Until next time…….see ya !!

Dr. “D”

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