We Are Failing to Socialize Some Youth… Maybe Sports Can Help?

Urban adults, especially Black and Brown grown ups in places like Philadelphia, Camden, Wilmington, Trenton, Reading and Allentown are struggling to effectively socialize a segment of the Black youth population. Wait… wait… no, fuck it… let’s speak plainly and avoid miscommunication. Black Philadelphians are woefully failing to effectively socialize some of these Black youth.

Let me be as clear as possible… Here, socialization is understood as the process by which young people acquire the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for responsible independent adult status. Simply put, Socialization is process by which kids become grown ups.

In some parts of urban Black communities, this process is effectively broken. Real shit… there is zero socialization taking place with some of these kids and it’s become very scary. Consider for a moment, the undeniable fact that there is a segment of the young Black and Brown male population in Philadelphia that is nihilistic. This cohort, generally speaking, seems to fall between the ages 12-25. These youth have very clearly rejected all religious, moral and even street principles in the belief that life is meaningless and has no value.

The Philadelphia Police Crime Scene unit work the 2300 Block of W. Harold Street were 5 people were shot with more that 20 rounds fired during a late gathering Monday night. Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Every day… Every… Single… Day…

Like an intense deep bass drumbeat, these young men pounce upon and execute people in relentless assaults with very powerful automatic and semi-automatic firearms on streets across the Greater Philadelphia Region. These youth, literally, knock on a door, shoot the father, invade the home, push the mother aside and slaughter the brother in front of the mother. This is 4 months after they sent a bullet through the leg of the 8 year old sister.

These muthafuckas…

They run up on you while you’re with your woman.

“You know what it is… Run it in… All of it…” Meanwhile, a laser attached to a Glock 9mm, with an extended clip, is glowing just below your chin.

Your heart is pounding through your chest… Instinctually, you rely on a basic understanding of armed robbery etiquette passed down for generations, you calmly hand over everything to your strong arm robber. No sudden moves… Just give him everything… Don’t offer any resistance… You just want to make it through the ordeal.

The phone… the wallet… the watch… the chain… the cash… everything…

You run it in… Your woman is crying and you just want them to leave and give her comfort, let her know everything is ok…

They aggressively snatch everything out of your hands… There is no life, no hope, no nothing in their soulless eyes…

And… then the Glock explodes… You catch a glimpse of a burst of fire and then eternal darkness…

They shot two 9mm slugs into your chest… For absolutely no reason… They already have all of your shit…

These muthafuckas don’t give a fuck about the armed robbery etiquette.

Life has no value to these youth. Let me say it AGAIN… Society, in general, and the Black community, in particular, have failed to adequately socialize these youth.

Everyday… Every muthafuckin’ day these youth leave beautiful Black bodies riddled with 5, 10, 15 even 20 bullets laying in the street or slumped over steering wheels. Literally, it seems as if a minimum of 40 shell casings are strewn about every shooting crime scene. Four or five dozen yellow shell casing markers look like somebody dropped a deck of pinochle cards adjacent to beautiful dead Black bodies.

The other day, these muthafuckas chased a 14 year old down… Multiple gunmen hunted him in broad daylight on the streets of Philadelphia… Police said the boy was shot 18 times throughout various parts of his body. Nearly forty shell casings were recovered. The 14 year old died at a hospital a short time later. He was one of over 2,000 people that have experienced large caliber bullets ripping through their flesh this year in Philadelphia and one of over 500 whose life was extinguished by gunfire.

Samuel Collington, slain Temple Student from Prospect Park, Delaware County

Also, the other day, these muthafuckas approached, Samuel Collington, a young white male college senior from Prospect Park, Delaware County on the edge of the Temple campus. He had borrowed his parents SUV to bring some stuff to his North Philadelphia apartment. He exited the vehicle and encountered evil.

“Run it in…”

According to some that have witnessed surveillance video, Collington violated the armed robbery etiquette and physically resisted his strong arm robbers.

It didn’t matter, they were probably gonna kill him anyway… Comply, resist… Shit don’t matter to these muthafuckas…

We are failing to socialize these kids… Abysmally…

These young predominantly Black youth have not acquired the requisite habits, beliefs, and knowledge necessary to transition into responsible, independent law-abiding adulthood.

They haven’t… You know they haven’t… We all know they haven’t…

Instead, we have witnessed an increasing number of young criminals willing to commit heinous and barbaric violent crimes without remorse. In recent years, cities like Chicago and Philadelphia have witnessed the emergence of a genocidal pattern of gun violence featuring massive increases in the frequency of both shootings and murders.

Sports matters…

Through it all, sports have been beacon of hope. With a few exceptions, the basketball community can say those aren’t our kids running rampant in the streets. Of course, there have been a few players involved as shooters and victims in gun violence. But for the most part, it ain’t our kids…

There are aspects of youth sports that positively affect the socialization process. A significant number of young Black male athletes have been appropriately socialized. Overall, these kids graduate from high school and are far more likely to engage in socially acceptable behavior than their disengaged street-based brethren. In the Greater Philadelphia region, organized youth, grassroots and high school basketball have provided vehicles whereby youth remain engaged with the educational system and are exposed to important habits, necessary beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of respectable society.

As spelled out by the great Black Philosopher, Christopher Wallace, ”Because the streets is a short stop / either you’re slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.”

For the most part, the gun-toters and the gangsters find it difficult to maintain a high school and college basketball, football, baseball, soccer or tennis career while remaining immersed in street life.

Those that choose the latter find themselves participating in youth sports, grassroots and scholastic “programs” that have rules, expectations and logical consequences in place. They experience some semblance of a socialization process through sports.

Many young Black and Brown boys end up “middle class by mistake.”

Carl Arrigale (l) and Rick Perez (r)

The key seems to be strong, caring, passionate and dedicated leadership. There are many different leadership styles. There are countless ways in which one can “coach” kids up on and off the court. Here is a glimpse at two very different approaches to the increasingly challenging task of coaching 15-19 year old boys transitioning to adulthood.

Both men are highly effective and their respective programs produce young men that are ready to adapt to college, trade school or the world of work after high school. How do we clone Rick Perez and Carl Arrigale? How do we make another Andre Noble, John Mosco or Rob Moore?

These guys elevate self-esteem among their players, they provide opportunities for increased social interaction, they build self-confidence and provide environments where young men can exhibit reasonable aggressiveness and take reasonable risks.

Unfortunately, there is an increasing and alarming amount of spillover from the streets into youth sports. Several weeks ago, an 8 year old girl was murdered at the conclusion of a football game at my alma mater, Academy Park, High School in Sharon Hill, PA. The perpetrators pulling the trigger and ending a life in this instance were young white males employed as police officers by the Borough of Sharon Hill.

There was also a shooting during a football game in Pleasantville, NJ a couple years ago and a 10-year old boy was killed. I have lost count of the number of high school athletes that have been murdered in the region. More than a few prominent former athletes are in prison on gun charges and related crimes.

The curtain that once separated athletes with a “future” from the “street dudes” is in tatters. Coaches like Isaiah Thomas, Rich Bold, Ray Barbosa, Lonnie Diggs and Jamel Lindsey are in the trenches trying to keep young men on the right path. Grassroots organizations like the Bottom Ballers, Philly Blue Magic, Philly Pride, Team Final-Red and K-Low provide much needed structure and guidance for college bound youth. Philadelphia Youth Basketball (PYB) has been an important part of the socialization process for hundreds of youth for several years.

The kids coming through these programs are high school graduates, they are in college, they are working, they care for their families. These are our kids…

Sports… More specifically, the basketball community has been an integral part of socializing Philadelphia youth for more than half a century. Sonny Hill, Claude Gross, John Chaney, Tee Shields and the rest of the Baker League/Sonny Hill Community Involvement League created a blueprint that guided youth basketball for more than 30 years. The emergence of shoe company contracts and benefits diverted attention away from this blueprint. There will never again be one dominant entity like the Hill League. Nonetheless, one could envision a far greater “socialization” impact if there was just a basic level of coordination among the important coaches, grassroots organizations, and high schools. Unfortunately, most in the youth basketball community have yet to realize that we are all on the same team.

The Philadelphia basketball community is having a positive impact on participating youth… No doubt…

However, nihilism is chipping away at the edge of sports. More and more… we see kids and adults that truly don’t give a fuck… Refs getting attacked… Fights and brawls… Guns in Spooky Nook…

Collectively, we need to limit the spread of nihilism among on the youth.

We need more Champions like Rick Perez and more Legends like Carl Arrigale.

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