An Open Letter

(. . . from James E. Davis, Founder and Chair of "LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence)

Dear Friends,

As the Founder and Chair of "LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence, people often ask me "Why should I support your organization?" Well, the answer is very simple. If you care about the well-being and safety of yourself and your loved ones, you should support "LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence. It's that simple.

"LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence is a grassroots organization. We are a not-for-profit organization dedicated to addressing the daily issues facing residents of inner-city communities. Our organization takes a "hands on" approach when dealing with the problems plaguing urban America. By getting out into the streets and interacting with the people, we can identify with and understand the concerns of the community. As a community-interest organization, we specialize in attacking issues that hurt urban communities. We identify the problem, implement solutions, and teach the residents how to overcome similar obstacles in their daily lives.

The very purpose for the existence of "LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence is to stop violence in urban America. We bring about positive changes to the lives of inner-city residents by spotlighting attention on the issues threatening their safety and unity. Along with teaching problem-solving techniques, our organization also teaches self-love, community pride and respect for others.

Many organizations start out as grassroots organizations but the lose focus of their purpose and forget their goals. "LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence has a proven track record showing that we remain dedicated and committed to our goal. Over the years, our organization has been there to quietly console the families of murdered victims. We have also rallied communities into action with marches and campaigns. We have educated troubled communities about the ills of violence, and, in neighborhoods where senseless killings have occurred, we have held memorial rallies in honor of the slain victims.

Too often I have seen little boys and girls, with their beautiful faces, lying inside tiny coffins -- their lives stolen much too soon. Too frequently I hear the cries of grief as mothers and fathers gaze upon the lifeless bodies of their young children. It is the spirit of these slain children which drives me to continue fighting to stop the senseless killings in urban America.

Many children in urban America grow up amid gang violence, poor housing conditions and overcrowded schools. There is graffiti on street corners, single parent households, drug abuse, teen pregnancies and unemployment. Families are torn apart because the fathers are in jail and the mothers are on crack cocaine. Too many men create babies then turn their backs on helping to raise them. In this hostile environment, keeping families together is nearly impossible. As a result, the streets are raising our children and the effect is a community ravaged by crime, violence and drug addicts. Identifying the problem is only the first step, now the question is, how do we fix it?

To correct the problem we have to look inward and fix the problem in the home. Raising children in a safe and healthy environment requires mending broken family structures and relationships. Many families need two incomes to survive, and consequently, children are frequently left unsupervised. Lack of supervision often leads to criminal behavior, so it's important for children to have after-school programs that offer tutoring, computer training, reading, writing, math, speech and language workshops to keep them occupied with worthwhile endeavors. Another problem contributing to the abundance of violence and crime today is television. Television has become a babysitter for kids and the shows they are watching contain gratuitous violence, sex, greed and profanity. Parents either don't have the time or aren't taking the time to monitor the shows their children watch. The duty to police the programs, therefore, falls to the television executives. These executives need to be mindful of the content of daily programming so as not to negatively influence the immature minds of the children. Many executives disagree, however, and feel it's the parent's responsibility to raise his or her child. I say it's also up to us, society, to act as surrogate parents and ensure that every child in America is raised in a safe and healthy environment. A well-known African proverb says: "It takes a village to raise a child." This proverb is especially relevant in today's society because, from the homeless person on the street corner to the CEO in his or her glass tower, we all have a role to play in raising the future of our society. Once we solve the problems in our families, we can refocus our energies on rebuilding communities.

I have heard parents say, "the violence in the streets is not my problem, I raised my child properly." Their vision is too narrow. They fail to see that if the child next door or down the block or in the next neighborhood succumbs to the lure of drugs and street violence, the poisonous disease of crime and drug abuse will spread to their neighborhood, their block and even their child. To fix the problem we must provide a safety net on the street. If a child has to be left alone for a few hours each day because his or her parent is working, there should be other adults from the community to step in and supervise that child and occupy him or her with meaningful and educational projects. With safety nets such as these in place in the community, we stand a better chance of preventing that child from falling into the bottomless pit of crime and violence.

If society fails to provide safety nets, who is to blame when a criminal commits a crime? The criminal? Yes. However, we as a society should shoulder some responsibility because we allowed these individuals to fall through the cracks, or better yet, the gaping holes in our system. Everyone needs to become involved in his or her community because if you're not part of the solution then you are the problem. Some believe the answer to escaping crime and poverty is to run to the suburbs. Yet, increasingly I have seen beautiful neighborhoods in the suburbs develop pockets of ghettos. Why is that? That's because the disease of violence and drug abuse that's destroying urban America is spreading, unchecked, to suburbia, proving that unless you solve the problem - you can run, but you can't hide. Joining a community-interest organization like "LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence will help to prevent the disease of crime and violence from spreading out of control and destroying America.

Many successful individuals from urban America earn fame and fortune from skills they developed in inner-city communities -- individuals such as the professional basketball player who honed his skills on the concrete courts or the recording star who developed her voice in the local church. Today they are millionaire celebrities, but yesterday they were still struggling to find their way out of the ghetto. Too many have forgotten where they came from. Too few have returned to lend a hand. The reason our communities fail to grow and prosper is that our valuable resources, our success stories, move out and never return to reinvest in the community that shaped their success.

Another problem contributing to the misery of life in urban America is the fact that, although many inner-city residents are taxpaying citizens of this country, the government has not sufficiently provided basic services like adequate housing, better schools and proper health care. In addition, the scant resources we do have in urban America are sucked out of our community, by those who give their money to businesses outside the community. If city governments, major corporations, local businesses and community residents worked closely with grassroots, community-based organizations like ours, we could benefit neglected inner-city neighborhoods by providing much needed services.

Today, in writing this letter to you, I hope I have helped you understand why it's important to give back. Too many excuses have been made for too long. I look at our government and I see lines of people standing outside with their hands outstretched. We need to become more self-reliant. It's time for a new direction. The government has spent millions of dollars studying the problem, yet society is still failing. We must stop looking to others for the answers because we are the answer. We must go back and reinvest our time, energy and finances in organizations that are fighting to save urban America. You can't fight the war in urban America from behind closed doors, you need organizations in the streets who are in touch with the people. "LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence is that organization.


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