ROSELLE, N.J., — Although I wrote this in New Jersey, I believe it applies everywhere. It’s time to stop preaching to the choir when it comes to black-on-black crime.
My wife and I had the privilege of attending a prayer service on the night of Dec. 29 for black men gunned down by police. There were many clergy and some elected officials from Roselle, Elizabeth, Hillside and Plainfield present.
At that prayer service in Roselle, organized by the Rev. David Ford the St. Matthew Baptist Church, I heard many great speakers discuss issues related to the African-American community.
Because it was an open and honest dialogue, black-on-black crime was mentioned, and our responsibility to address and deal with it were discussed.
Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley gave a great speech about the need for parents to step up to instill values in their kids and to value education.
Myrtle Counts, the head of the Roselle NAACP, gave an impassioned speech expressing that yes black lives matter, but that they also must have value to us as African-Americans.
Rev. Ford mentioned not wanting to live in a world without police, but wanting to have good and respectful police.
I heard Plainfield Councilwoman Tracey Brown lament the fact that she had done more than 100 eulogies in 2014, and most were for young people.
As I looked around I saw the nodded heads and heard the amens and shouts of “Yes!” But I also noticed something else as I looked around.
As great as the speakers were, their messages didn’t need to be delivered to the 50 or so people in the church. They were preaching to the choir.
What good is a great and possibly life-saving message if the people who need to hear it don’t hear it?
We as elected officials, clergy and community leaders need to take the message that yes black lives matter, but they have to matter to us too, from the churches and meeting halls to the streets.
Delivering that message won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers on how to do that, but if we all work together, I’m sure that many do.
It’s imperative that we get out there and deliver that message. As an elected official, I’m ready to do my part and hope that others will do the same.
Our children’s lives depend on it.
George L. Cook III is president of the Hillside, N.J. Board of Education.