Raise a ruckus, make a difference

In the words of my mentor and America's foremost child advocate Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of The Children's Defense Fund, it's time to "raise a ruckus people, it is time to raise a ruckus!"
CNN's "Black in America" raised many critical issues facing African-American people in this great country of ours. It was not pretty, it was not flattering, but it was very, very frank. The show delved into the negative issues that have plagued the African-American community for generations, i.e., crime, education, single parent families, drug abuse and the like.
People got mad. People sent many e-mails and letters to Soledad O'Brien and CNN and cried foul. People said "Black in America" was not consistent with the lives of many African-American people and was one-sided. Blogs and Web sites popped up all over the place where people "raised a ruckus" about the content of the show.
I read a lot of these comments. As a matter of fact, I was obsessed with people's views for many weeks after the documentary aired. And the more I read, the more I got angry. The more I read, the more I wanted to "raise my own ruckus." But I was frustrated and upset for a very different reason than most.
I was almost apoplectic with the amount of criticism for "Black in America" without critical, thought provoking commentary about how each person can do their part to make a difference to change the very startling and distressing issues facing most African-American children and adults in America.
On a typical day in the lives of black American children:
  • Three children or teens are killed by firearms
  • 24 babies die before their first birthday
  • 102 children are arrested for violent crimes
  • 119 children are arrested for drug crimes
  • 292 babies are born to teen mothers
  • 348 babies are born without health insurance
  • 497 children are confirmed abused or neglected
  • 794 babies are born into poverty
  • 1,202 babies are born to unmarried mothers
  • 1,385 children are arrested
And on a typical school day for black children in America:
  • 417 high school students drop out
  • 442 public school students are corporally punished
  • 6,916 public school children are suspended
And consider that in America,
  • One in three black children live in poverty
  • More than eight of every 10 black fourth graders in our public schools cannot read at grade level
  • A black boy born in 2001 has a one in three chance of going to prison in his lifetime
[Statistics are from the Children's Defense Fund's Child Research Data.]
This is serious stuff people. And it is the cold-hearted truth. So, it is okay to comment that the documentary did not represent your life. It is okay to comment that it was upsetting to see images of black men in jail, children dropping out of school, and unwed mothers.
It is okay because the truth hurts, especially when it is seen by 16 million people. In fact, most of the images shown in "Black in America" do not represent my personal life or the lives of my children. But because these issues face my brothers and sisters in my collective African-American family, they concern me, they hurt me, they belong to me, and I will own them.
We know that as African-Americans we have come a long way. We know that we are doctors, lawyers, CEOs, philanthropists, politicians, and even the president of the United States of America. And yes, it would do our children a lot of good if these images were portrayed more frequently in the media. But this does not change the very real issues facing African-American people portrayed in "Black in America."
And frankly, with so many of our people struggling, we can't just celebrate our achievements -- we must make it a priority to work on the most critical and urgent matters in our community. As I always say, "The blessed and the best of us, must take care of the rest of us."
So why did the criticism make me so mad? Because so much of it was unaccompanied by real ideas, thought-provoking suggestions, plans of action, or inspiring initiatives or solutions. How can you complain if you are unwilling to join the fight?
How can you get mad, if you are disinclined to make a difference in someone else's life? And why would you take the time to write an accusatory e-mail to Soledad O'Brien instead of writing a letter to your representative in Congress demanding health care for all children and pregnant women, increased funding for schools, or new initiatives to increase black-owned businesses in black neighborhoods?
"Black in America 2" will offer many solutions to the ills facing African-American people. I think it will make the naysayers happy. But it will only make me happy if the naysayers "raise a ruckus" by joining the fight to better the lives of all black folks.


By: Tennille Tucker
On: 07/22/2009 22:37:21
I just got through watching the Black in America 2 special on CNN. First and foremost, I would like to give a round of applause to Mrs. Rock for expressing her love to those that are less fortunate; from Brooklyn to South Africa! It takes a committed and caring person to want to make a change outside of THEIR own world. In my opinion, if this world would be as compassionate as she is, alot of the inconsistencies that goes on in the homes will be far and in between. In regard to the criticism that was written, the only comment that I can say to that is; "They talked about Jesus Christ". Honey, you have been placed in the situation you are in because GOD put you there. YOU were called to do a duty. Complete your mission unto HIM, the rest is regard-less!You cannot make that percent of negative people influence what you KNOW is right! They would NEVER understand what we have gone through, is going through, and will continue to go thru as African-Americans! That special was touching and although I have never met you or them children, I am PROUD of ALL of you! I am proud that there is a woman whom is willing to make a change, I am proud that there was children WILLING to accept the challenges set forth and to understand that there are situations that is "bigger" than what they see day-2-day. I would like to say sooo much more, however, I will close with this; STAY ENCOURAGED and let the haters gossip! God Bless. Peace. Love.
By: Renee DeWalt
On: 07/22/2009 23:12:13
I was touched by the depth of your committment to the young people of Bushwick as well as your determination to make a difference you are a role model young women should be reflecting.

Those who critize usually will never be apart of the solution while looking at Black In America II I'm crying yet proud and furthermore inspired that I still have a lot of work to do.

Renee DeWalt

By: Amy
On: 07/23/2009 11:29:49
I commend you on this article and the work you are doing in urban communities. I really do believe that true change comes from the ground up, not top down. Communities simply cannot wait for a check from the government.
Your works adheres to the principle "We must be the change we wish to see in this world". It is only when people understand this that we can permanently affect our communities in a positive way.
Congratulations on all you have done for Bushwick and urban youth!
By: Marlayna Bryant
On: 07/23/2009 11:47:37
Black in America and Black in America 2 was so inspiring that my husband and I want to make a difference in our country. It's a shame people complain, but its the complainer that sit back and don't give back. I'm inspired and my children and their children would be too. Thanks Soledad and Malaak for what you do. God bless you.
By: Christina Collier
On: 07/24/2009 03:19:11
Mrs. Rock, First,I commend everything that you are doing for the children of Bushwick and the families in South Africa. Secondly, I agree with you on the subject of the backlash that CNN and Soledad O' Brien recieved following the airing of Black America Part 1; all the naysayers need to "raise a ruckus" instead of complaining. CNN was telling the truth about the state of affairs in the black community. I know, because I see it everyday; walk into any corner store, you won't see healthy, wholesome foods, all you will see is processed foods. I wasn't at all insulted about what I saw on part 1, it was truth! What I do know that all it takes is one person to make a difference-quit waiting on handouts from the government!!! Lastly, Mrs. Rock coverage of the 30 children you took to South Africa inspired me...I think that I were to begin volunteering in my community, that would surely change me for the better...thank god I watched Black in America part 2, or I would have never known about the Angel Rock Project or Journey for Change!!! Keep doing what you are Mrs. Rock, you are truly an inspiration to me!!!

Leave a comment

Please complete the form below to submit a comment on this article. A valid email address is required to submit a comment though it will not be displayed on the site.