Lakeisha Hamilton is a first year student, and a Fellow with the Center for Faith and Service. Lakeisha has pastured youth in urban areas for several years and reflects on that experience in light of McCormick’s annual theme: “Peacemaking in the City”.
As I reflect on our MTS Theme: Peacemaking in the City: A Faithful Response to Urban Violence a phone call from 2003 comes to mind.
(Student) Brian: Hello Ms. Keisha, are you busy? I really need to talk to you.
Me: Hey B, no I’m not busy. WHAT’S WRONG? Are you ok, where are you?
Brian: I’m at home right now, I’m good. I just need to thank you for all that you do for me and
your other Kids.
Me: ….umm, you’re welcome; but why do you sound so sad?
Brian: Yesterday at school I was stop by two boys who wanted to know who I rolled with; I told them nobody but they insisted on questioning me. They became extremely agitated and I was afraid that they were going to try and fight me when Alex; you know your student who attends that school on the East Side. Yeah, him! He walked up and shook those boys hands then he gave me some dap. When those boys realized that Alex knew me, they began questioning him. Asking him the same questions; who did I roll with? Alex smile dropped, he looked at me a bit puzzled then quickly told them that I was straight. “He doesn’t roll with anybody, he’s good.” Alex gave those boys dap, and told them that we would see them later; Alex and I walked off and didn’t speak of the issue.
But Ms. Keisha I know that I would have gotten seriously hurt today if I hadn’t met Alex during your events. I know we gave you a hard time about meeting Kids from other schools, but I now see why you did it. Thank you.
The background information was that Brian had recently transferred to this school from a private school; Alex was from the neighborhood in which Brian’s new school was located.
Exposure, community, encouragement, high standards, and respect are a few of the ingredients I use in my mentoring of Young People (7th grade through Graduate School).
EXPOSURE: Young People haven’t lived long enough to have seen it all, neither have I for that matter. But what I can do is make sure that they are exposed to various ethnic groups, genres of music, diverse cuisines and how to have fun, sober. I am also transparent with them with my own shortcomings; they must know that I am human and just like them I don’t always make the best decision. This ingredient prepares one for a Global Society and develops transparent adults.
COMMUNITY: I build a community around & within my group of Teens. My Networks and I surround them with love and support, and the Teens are sternly encouraged to establish a bond among each other (A Nucleus and Shell covering). This ingredient replaces one’s desire to join a street gang.
ENCOURAGEMENT: Even when a Teen’s parent isn’t supportive, I am. I attend their extracurricular programs, graduations, assemblies, and I’ve even accompanied one of my Babies to a court appearance. I had multiple people, in & outside of my Family encourage me as I grew up, now I am passing this love on to the Generations which come after me. This ingredient builds self-esteem.
HIGH STANDARDS: I expect for each of my Youth to set goals and be ok with not reaching all of them. But what I will not accept is a Teen becoming a victim of their family’s circumstances or community’s destruction. Failure is inevitable, but not getting back up and trying again is inexcusable. This ingredient teaches one how to make Lemonade out of the lemons, which life throws at you.
RESPECT: I request for Teens to first respect Self, and to expect the best from themselves; second respect me & your peers. If neither of these is possible, then their presence is no longer welcomed. This ingredient has allowed for mistakes to be made, but no one stop loving one another. Instead, we grew together during everyone’s trial & tribulation.
The Urban Violence plaguing Chicago isn’t new, it is just more visible. There aren’t any quick fixes; my church doors are open but my Teens are shot at on their way to the doors. I’m not going to give up! If individuals and collected groups of the Faith Community could start cooking up programs using some of my few tried and tested ingredients we may see some change across Chicago; but every corner of the City must be on the same accord. Are we offering to teach the skills which God has embedded in us to the next generation, or are we sitting on them? How many jobs or internships are we providing or securing each year; the Teens are standing right there on your corner-have you introduced yourself to them and found out what are their aspirations?
Finally, if the Faith Community Members would begin having honest dialogues among themselves and openly with others as McCormick Theological Seminary is doing with our book discussions of Alex Kotlowitz’s There are no Children Here; we just might discover how some of our actions or lack-there-of have contributed to Chicago’s violence. But God……
As a child, Lakeisha doesn’t remember ever dreaming of being a Minister. As an adult, she accepts her calling to her children and the Youth. Lakeisha’s Theological studies will not only prepare her for teaching Teenagers how to read & apply the Word of God, but also help them to understand that they too can survive all of life’s tribulations just as Job did.