Mirrors speaker calls on parents to get involved with young people’s lives
Motivational speaker Alfred Powell says he is extremely concerned about how Bermuda’s social problems are impacting the Island, and he warns parents to act before it is too late.
After speaking to students at Berkeley and CedarBridge high schools on Monday, Mr Powell, who is from Ohio, told an audience later that evening how young people are fearful of visiting certain areas.
From just a few years ago, Mr Powell, an author and community educator, says he has seen a rapid deterioration in morals on the Island.
The causes are many, he says, from the influence of the hip hop culture to gang activity, gun violence, substance abuse and the marketing of violence in the media. The community, he says, need to do more to address the problems.
“I love coming to Bermuda, but I’m exhausted in coming to Bermuda to repeat the same thing that we warned about, particularly in 2005,” said Mr Powell following his presentation on Monday evening which was attended by Glenn Blakeney, Minister of Youth, Families and Sports and officials of the Mirrors programme who invited him back to the Island.
“In 2005 I was very, very adamant about the emerging issues. In 2009 I said it had legs and now, unfortunately, in 2012, I say it’s sprinting.
“We have to keep the parent at the forefront of empowering their youth to make change. We can’t make government solely responsible, in fact they should be involved but at the latter part.
“They should be taking care of the civic responsibility of protecting us, cutting those weapons and ammunition off, proving to us that they are intimately involved in making an effort to stop it from coming (into the Island).
He added: “When I asked the question today of two separate groups ‘how many of you have the ability to put your hands on a weapon within 24 hours?’, 90 percent of the young men from two different schools raised their hands.
“They could have been hyperboling, but I believe it is at least 50 percent accurate.”
Mr Powell reminded that the problem of black on black crime is found in many countries not just the United States.
“I know intuitively to kill somebody who looks like me,” he said. “How does this happen? No matter where I go throughout the Diaspora people of colour are killing people of colour.
“It’s the stereotypes and those things that they subconsciously buy into.”
Mr Powell urged the audience to take more interest in their communities, saying that in a small island everybody is your neighbour and that it still takes a village to raise a child.
“We are in charge of solving issues ourselves and that’s what we should look at,” he said. “We need to talk about what we are doing as parents.
“I’m from a family of 13 and I saw the effect of rearing, but I also saw what the children will do when parents are not watching.
“Who is living in your house and how well do you know them? Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
The speaker warned against the ‘not my child’ mentality. And nor should we think that somebody else’s problem child is not our problem, too.
“It’s only a matter of time before your neighbour’s children end up in your yard,” Mr Powell cautioned. “These children in Bermuda belong to us and we have to conduct ourselves as if they belong to us. Be extremely careful how we label our children.”
Mr Powell challenged parents to grow up themselves and lead by example.
“Start by being a parent and not your child’s friend,” he stressed.
“And you have to admit there is a problem. We get in a state of denial which is one of the worst diseases inflicted on a human being.
“How many of you have a cousin who is in denial about their children? We have families in Bermuda in denial.
“It’s going to happen next door, in the other parishes but it’s not going to happen where I live. Can you imagine if it gets any worse?
“I follow you on the internet, whoa! We’re going to pay one way or the other, so get involved.”
Mr Powell took issue with the negative label ‘at risk youth’.
“All children are at ‘risk’ of becoming geniuses,” he said. “We have to be careful of the labels. We must teach our youth to think critically, reflect deeply and act creatively.
“They must be a part of the solution. Our youth don’t want to be dictated to, they don’t want a blueprint handed to them, they want to be a part of the development of the blueprint.”
Mr Powell held a second workshop last night at Whitney Institute and has also visited schools during his brief visit to the Island, getting his messages out to the students.
He also visited Westgate, the Co-ed and Prison Farm, speaking to prisoners. He leaves the Island today.
Today the internationally recognised award-winning speaker will present his second workshop at Whitney Middle School, which starts at 6.30pm and is open to the public.
Mr Powell is the founder and CEO of Human Motivation Council and Human Motivation Circle and an Adjunct Associate Clinical Professor at the School of Social Welfare Health Sciences, State University of New York.
A specialist in cultural diversity with expertise in African American and Afro-Latino youth issues, he consults with numerous school districts, social service agencies and churches around the country.