Incorporating the The Germantown Chronicle & The Northwest Independent

6661 Germantown Ave • Philadelphia, PA 19119 • 215-438-5171 •


Faith, Family, and Friends


Proverbs 22:6 

    Train up a child in the way he should go,

    Even when he is old he will not depart from it.


Proverbs 22:6

    Train up a child in the way he should go,

    Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

I was recently visited by an experience that greatly changed my life. Because of this experience, I can no longer live in my house of thirty plus years securely. I was marked, found worthy, and set-up to be robbed by an 18 year old neighbor and his sidekick. Physically attacked, my life threatened, and two window shatterings later, they had accomplished their deed. Mid-day on the second attempt to get into my house, my Mom, a Slomin Shield rep., and I, saw this same neighbor step from the broken front porch window of my house. In total amazement and shock, while on the cell to 911, stepping from my car, I called out his name. Our eyes locked and he proceeded to walk away, just as cool and emotionally colorless as a canker on a cobra. I thought he was a friend.

A day later, I learned that he had been shot dead by an off-duty police officer as he tried to rob someone else with a gun. As you can imagine that was bittersweet news. My heart was and is still heavy. Here is another young Black man's life wasted for chump change. Wasted because of poor decisions and an apparent limited view of his worth to himself , to his family, and to his community. I, also, later learned that he had robbed another neighbor at BB-gun point a few days before my assault, getting a large amount of money after waiting in the home for another family member to come home from work.

I am grieved by these events; the betrayal, the loss of his young life, and the rip it has made in our community. Nothing can compared to the worth of his young life. By the way, his side-kick is still walking around the neighborhood. These events have made clear the need and purpose of my faith. A faith that was introduced to me when I was a child. This frightening experience has, also ,made me aware of the level of support needed from my family and friends in such a challenging time of my life. I have chosen not to return to my home. But, this young man was a victim of a fourth generation drug house. What he did was a result of a life lived in such a house . What part did his family and friends play in this, his challenging time of life? Is the evidence in the outcome?

Because of this experience, I am taking a binocular look at myself and my community. First, my faith. It is a necessary way of life for me. I believe in Jesus. My belief in this diviner of time, space, and eternity employs for me a perspective to all the situations that this ol' world subjects me to. He gives me strength against the forces that would otherwise crush me. I am humbled and thankful to know that GOD loves me when no one else can or will.

Having declared that, I wondered about my 18 year old neighbor's life growing up. What's it like growing up in a home where drugs are routinely sold by your elders night and day. Where all kinds of people are coming and going at all hours. What kinds of characters did he come in contact ? He was always out in the streets even on rainy days. Sometimes even in thunder and lightning storms.

A household that permits you to be out in the streets with no apparent direction or supervision can only be dangerous in the long run. Or not. I've heard it said that lots of people grow-up in challenged households and manage to come out of it living a' normal' life. It's the choices one makes,ultimately.

When I was growing up in the Raymond Rosen projects in North Philly, my Mom and Dad showed concern for our lives and our future. They wanted to know where we were at all times. They wanted to meet our friends and they wanted to know what the father did for a living. There was no question about what time go to bed and we went to church. We had chores to do around the house and in the yard. We could not be out in the streets after the sun went down. We had to be on the steps. Our steps! I grew up in a house where stealing was not tolerated.Where you had to treat elders with respect or a neighbor would tell on you and you were sure to get in trouble.

Unfortunately , this 18 year old's home didn't seem to have this level of concern for him. It seemed to me, from the outside, that his life was so entangled in a culture of drugs that he saw drugs as a way of life and would rob his friends and neighbors, without emotion or concern of consequences or shame, to get them. But, how? He had gone to public school. He had watched TV. He was aware of what was right and clearly what was not right.

Many of the contours of both our lives , his and mine , were shared in this community. I had bought a vacant rehab house on that block and made it into my home. I watched him grow up. He had gone to church and to the theatre with me. I had taken him ,with other kids on the block, bowling , and out for ice cream. His mother went to school with my niece. I cared and in light of this I felt that what happens to one of us happens to all of us.

Lately, Black on Black crime statistically has been the rule, not the exception. Whatever future we have as a community lies in us having this conversation. All life matters. We cannot expect the outside forces to give our lives meaning and direction. That is what our faith is for. That is why family values need to be foundational on purpose. We need to confront the problem within our own households and communities.

No one will care if we don't care until another young Black man is shot dead in the streets, and we erect a candle and stuffed animal shrine in his honor, to say ," we love you" when he can't hear you ,because he's dead, and gone! Show the love by pointing our young in the right direction.Give them the tools they will need to overcome the tempting deceitful 'easy' life. There is no such thing. There is always a price to pay.

I call upon the women of our community. With all that we are already doing, I ask of us a little more. Let's talk to our young men about the choices they have at their disposal. There are no longer Jim Crow laws to keep us down. The sky and their dreams along with hard work is the limit. Let's dialogue with them about the painful truth of the modern slavery system; how being jailed and warehoused in the system makes money for economy seeking sections of this country. Let's let them witness positive role models in the men we chose to be with.Encourage them to get up from the couch and be industrious. Find and be with men who are doing positive things instead of loitering on street corners watching the world go by.

Demand respect in the home and ,of course, show respect. Please, don't talk to them any ole kind of way. Set boundaries and expect more of them then just waking up in the morning. Let them know you care about their life and the choices they make regarding it. Have clear consequences and do it with love.

Finally, my faith has taught me to have hope for tomorrow. I believe that we will see a turn around from these tragic events that keep reaching into our lives effecting our families. This turn around will only take place if we take serious the risk of not talking to our young about the choices they make. Let us be encouraged by the many opportunities that this country has to offer. Opportunities that were not available to others of our race or creed. This young man and his friend often accompanied me to political events . I'd hope to interest them in realizing how welcoming the world be to their positive involvement. Let's stop expecting the powers that be to do the work that we need to do for ourselves. The work of good parenting and good neighboring. So, let us look to our faith for guidance. Let us continue to rely on our family for help , direction, and discipline. And let us trust in our friends, our true friends, for telling us when we've gone to far. It has been said that yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That's why it's called present. Let us take that present and cherish it while we can.

Peace and blessings.

Proverbs 22:15

    Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child,

    The rod of discipline will remove it far from him


Canada Brown

Canada is co-host of The Independent Voice radio program, heard on WURD 900 AM every other Sunday evening at 7 PM. The next show is July 10.