I will occasionally revisit the magnificent story of Urban Prep in Chicago because it encourages me and reinforces my belief that young urban African-American “at risk” males can be successful, when given the environment and encouragement to excel.
It is what we are trying to do with The Pyramid Institute, Incorporated and the creation of forums like The Family Meeting, where we hopefully spark critical thought about important issues.
For those of our Family Meeting family who do not know the story of Urban Prep in Chicago, please go back into the archives of our posts and take a look.
In short, it is an imaginative and creative approach to engaging inner city males to pursue higher education through dedication, discipline, and hard work at this Chicago charter school. The end result was a 100 percent college acceptance for its first group of graduating seniors.
So, I recently checked up on Urban Prep after listening one afternoon to Michael Baisden, the syndicated radio talk show host. One aspect of the afternoon radio discussion stood out to me. It involved the need of some Urban Prep students to stuff their shirts, ties, and crested sport coats into a safe hiding place, then change clothes, and attempt to blend into the neighborhood framework in order to make it safely home.
They were trying to avoid being physically attacked or ridiculed for their appearance and scholarship. My mind wandered to the other young man in Chicago who was beaten to death for his scholarship.
What are we doing to these young people in order for them to think or believe that the devaluation of proper attire should give way to exposed boxer shorts, hoodies, and over sized everything? If you ever take a look at an old Negro League Baseball crowd, or another venue where Black folks were gathered, most of the men have on shirts, ties, and hats, and the ladies will all have on dresses, gloves, and hats.
What are we doing to these young people to cause them to devalue education, the most readily attainable way to a better life? If you take a look around, with the exception of athletes and entertainers, the people who have excelled in the African-American communities are predominately those who have secured an education, either professionally or in a trade.
We have to impress upon our young people, especially those on the vulnerable fringe, that the pursuit of scholarship bolstered by a professional appearance (i.e. proper attire) are a viable vehicle to a better life.
Perhaps, Andy Razaf (1895-1973), one of Tin Pan Alley’s greatest songwriters, said it best in his poem “The Square.”
Keep on being a “square,” young man, in the end you will find that it pays, for it’s the “cool” and “crazy cats” who live in a mental daze.
Think for yourself and don’t follow the pack. If you’re wise you will not string along with a hoodlum gang that breaks the law, and feels that it’s smart to do wrong.
Keep on being a “square,” young girl, for a “solid chick” learns in time that in being “hip,” she is easy to trip, and turn to a life of crime.
The juvenile halls and jails overflow with the “cool, crazy cats,” everywhere. Very often they even wind up in “death row,” while a “square” you will seldom find there.
So being a “square” more than pays these days. You can walk with head high, without shame, while the “cats” and “chicks” ruin their lives for “kicks,” by defying the rules of life’s game.
Read, learn, and share……..Have a Family Meeting!
C. Randolph Keller