Black Americans: Stand up and help your community

Tawana Jacobs

This is a busy time of year for black Americans. The celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.?s birthday is upon us and Black History Month is looming.

One question looms even larger than coming events: When looking at the state of blacks today, would our past leaders share in our celebrations and be confident about our future? Or would they hang their heads in shame?

We?ve all heard the pitiful statistics: 70 percent of black children are born into homes headed by single women. More than 80 percent of black children are being raised in poverty. More black men go to prison than college every year.

Since Dr. King?s assassination in 1968, an overwhelmingly large part of the community has lost its way. The morals, values and principles that were once the backbone of the black community no longer exist in many households.

The black community has talked unceasingly about the decline of its fortitude and moral strength for years and come up with lots of ideas. But the reluctance to act consistently on those ideas means that we are continuing to lose ground. Now is the time to move forward, develop a list of tangible solutions and start moving through that list item by item.

Let?s focus first on black mothers. With an overwhelming majority of them raising children alone, mothers are the obvious key to solving many of the community?s ills.

Raising children alone is nothing new. What was once an unpleasant rarity that caused tongues to wag is now commonplace and, in many circles, considered acceptable. With contraception readily available and increasingly inexpensive, why is this happening? None of us know for sure, but many in the community believe that some women have bought into the myth that a man will stay with you, and eventually agree to get married, if you bear his children. Others seem to think that marriage, because of its high divorce rate, is a waste of time.

To give their kids at least a shot at succeeding in life, many black women need to make better choices about men. Too many make excuses and are willing to look the other way when the man is participating in activities either illegal or immoral.

The time to get started is now.

If someone at your church, in your family or in your neighborhood is struggling, but stubborn, offer a hand. If they shun you or question your motives, work to win them over. Show the kids a positive example. Help a single mother arrange for baby-sitting.

Let?s do our part to ensure that the efforts, dreams and passions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and countless others live on and resonate clearly in our lives. We cannot let the bright light of the work that paved the way for the success of the black community burn out now. It?s up to you. Do you want to be a part of the problem or will you stand up and be a part of the solution?

Tawana Jacobs, an African-American, is a communications officer with Population Action International in Washington.