The incarcerated members of Elsinore Bennu spend a lot of time talking with, getting to know, and supporting young men who have found themselves in the prison system. Often, though, they wish they could reach people a few years earlier with their advice. Here are some of Malakai’s insights.
5 THINGS AFRICAN AMERICAN YOUNG MEN SHOULD KNOW
*IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT: You were born into the environment you inhabit – you didn’t create it – but everyone expects you to live in harsh conditions, thrive with limited resources, and mentally deal with watching others have things you want but can’t afford.
Some people will take one look at you and instantly fear you. You will often be misjudged, your opinion will often be overlooked or not considered, and even educators paid by the state to teach you may not be able to connect with you.
Not everyone born into these conditions is strong enough to be able to live a productive life and get over the hurdles you face daily. It’s not your fault.
*AS YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY REALIZED, YOUR ELDERS HAVE FAILED YOU: Most of us, the older generation were too selfish to take the time and make things better for you.
We first failed you by not standing up for the sanctity of your existence and not being able to see ourselves in your eyes. Then we ignored your points of view and did not stand beside you in your failures as well as your accomplishments. We would rather judge you on the standards of your clothes, music, and the way you speak than sincerely offer you support.
We should also take the time and money to invest in your future but most of us don’t have financial literacy, or even the knowledge of how to balance a checkbook. And the reason why most of us can’t show you how to start legitimate businesses is because we don’t know how.
*BECOME THE LEADER YOU SEEK: Leadership first begins with making the best choices for your survival. It’s not about doing something you may get away with, it’s about doing what’s right regardless of your conditions and circumstances.
You have to take education more seriously. Not only is it the passport to your future; once you earn it, it cannot be taken away from you.
As you grow from a child to a young adult, you will learn that illegal, fast money comes with many negatives consequences that are not worth risking your life for.
You will also get to a point where you can no longer blame your bad choices on your environment or poor leadership from your elders. It’s now up to you.
*STRICTLY BUSINESS: In every engagement – whether it is with a bill collector or the police – be respectful.
This is not so much about respecting someone else’s authority than it is about self-respect. People may judge you from personal prejudices or from what they see in the media and this is their personal choice. But if you act ignorantly, you only add to that negative stereotype.
Show that you are better than how the world judges you by your actions.
And the best way to do this is to keep it strictly business.
*DON’T BE US, BE BETTER: You can learn from the mistakes as well as the accomplishments of your elders, and that’s what learning history should really be about.
Work efficiently at not just building a good network of support for your peers and other contacts, but also seek to develop new ways to foment change for the younger generation. If not, in a few years, you will be the one responsible for the brunt of their failures. Then it will be your fault!