Thursday, July 27, 2006

Midnight Basketball Won't Keep Brothers From Fouling Out

The city of New Orleans is about to restart the midnight basketball program for young men ages 17-21. This is an effort to reduce the number of young kids on the streets and replace their guns with basketballs. The mayor, city council, and other community leaders believe that this will be a big step in reducing the amount of young men wandering around with nothing to do.
I have been trying my best to be an optimist these days. I am sure that this new program will go a long way to helping a few kids have something to do at night. However, we had midnight basketball before and there was no reduction in crime. The program will serve 180 kids. If you subtract them from the hundreds that have no direction, you will reduce crime by about .00005%. The reason why is simple. Crime and drug abuse is so much a part of the inner city that programs like midnight basketball and nights out against crime have no effect on the overall condition of the areas where most of the crime is happening. In New Orleans, drugs and crime are popular occupations. Many families are clothed and fed based on this revenue stream. That means it's a cultural thing. The kids and adults in this sub-culture are so out of touch that they are not going to play in this league. Most of them won't even know about it. The starting age for the league is 17-21. As a community, we are losing our children from the ages of 4-12. We all know the causes so I won't get into that. I do think there is a better way to fight crime then playing basketball. Instead of spending money on basketball for young adults, we should be trying to establish the following things to effectively reduce crime.

1. Equal education opportunities for inner city youth - This includes infrastructure and teachers. Suburban school districts recruit all the qualified teachers because they can offer more money and a better environment.
2. Mentoring programs for young men ages 5-10 - Because if they get to their teens without anyone that cares about them it's really too late.
3. Alternative education programs with an emphasis on job training. - Why are we still teaching our kids like everyone is going to go to college? Let some of these young brothers learn welding or construction in high school and give him a tool to earn a living.
4. Early childhood development programs for the kids and their mothers.- If mama can't read then the baby won't either.
5. Recreational programs for all neighborhoods- It can't cost that much to make sure that every park is at least clean and the grass is cut.

Of course, I am no expert. There are people who have way more education than me making these decisions. They are probably more qualified than I am. The only thing I have to go on is living in the same community for 32 years and watching it slowly turn into a place with little emphasis on youth development, education or family values. I have watched all that neglect morph into what we have today. If that counts for anything then I guess I am qualified. I hope the league does well. I might even go to a game or two. I just hope that my beloved city leaders have something else in mind to change some of the things going on down here other than basketball and the National Guard.

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