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Sunday, July 28, 2013
What do you want to do?
What a question. Inevitably, children face this inquiry at some time in their young lives by their parents, their teachers, even the kindly old dude down the street. From a young age through high school, most children are encouraged to dream, to see themselves in places beyond their current location and situation. The answers are as varied as the beautiful children who are asked: fireman, doctor, builder, scientist, teacher, even president.
Recently on “Piers Morgan Live,” Morgan interviewed Rachel Jeantel, the friend of and last person to talk to Trayvon Martin. He asked her about the case and her well-being. While it was a positive interview, there was something missing — and what was missing nagged “Fly Jock” Tom Joyner. He said that Morgan missed the opportunity to inquire what Jeantel wanted to do with her life. Now why would that even be a question? She was a witness. She was a friend. But what more should we know from Jeantel? The answer is that Jeantel experienced the stark reality that life is not guaranteed, that life is fleeting, that in a moment, all that we know can change and never be the same. So for a young woman, still in high school, on the threshold of life, whatever dreams she may have had — including any plans with her friend Trayvon — are now no longer there.
So instead of leaving the question unasked, Joyner contacted Jeantel and asked, “What do you want to do?” You see, all we have known up to this point in Jeantel’s life is the characterizations and caricatures the media provided to us. She can’t speak! Look at her nails! Her attitude! Her weight! Her skin tone! She looks like something out of a Madea movie! In truth, we knew nothing about her. Why was she a friend to Trayvon? Why did he call her when he felt he was in trouble? How did she feel when the phone line went dead? But Joyner took the next step. He asked a question. And it was the right question to ask a young woman in this period of her life.
We found out that Jeantel was interested in law enforcement. Through his Tom Joyner Foundation, Joyner promised to provide the support she needed to successfully finish high school, prepare for the SATs and provide a full-ride scholarship to the historically black college or university of her choice. What she does with this gracious opportunity is up to her. But at least we now know a small piece of the beauty that resides in Jeantel.
Now, we all can’t be Piers Morgans or Tom Joyners. We all do not have national and international platforms to highlight the wonderful things our children do every day. We all don’t have the finances to provide to deserving young people access to higher education, travel opportunities and occupational experiences. But we can impact the lives of young men and women.
What we do possess is the ability to influence dreams. Through our organizations, we can bring to young people mentors, role models and experts. Programs such as Project Grad out of Philadelphia and the BOOST! program of Oakland, Calif., serve as sources for tutoring, mentoring and enrichment of young minds. There are thousands of other programs across the country working to provide the tools necessary for young people to succeed.
More importantly, we as individuals can and should do more to affect the lives and livelihood of young people. Taking the time to talk to them, introducing them to our careers, our history, the dreams we held — whether achieved or not. We need to talk to the young men and women of our neighborhoods, letting them know that somebody cares, that somebody is interested in their future.
The question was finally asked, “What do you want to do?” The question now is, “What are you going to do?”
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