Last night’s incident at the Oscars captured the attention of the entire world — or at least my social media channels made it feel that way. After watching reruns of what happened and then today watching Will Smith’s acceptance speech for Best Actor, I immediately remembered a physical altercation from high school that changed the course of my life.
I had just graduated high school and my then-girlfriend was hosting a graduation party while her parents were out of town. In the midst of the gathering, and fueled by youthful emotions, I found myself fighting with another attendee at the party. The fight grew larger as our respective allies joined the chaos. At the conclusion of the brawl, and as we attempted to make good on our exit, the police located my band of combatants and arrested us — thus scarring my transition from adolescence to adulthood with lasting implications.
University of Chicago professor and director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, Jens Ludwig, often tells the story of a conversation he once had with a staff leader at the Cook County juvenile detention center. The staff leader remarked to Jens, “I always tell the kids if I could give you back just 10 minutes of your lives none of you would be here.” In my incident, I would gladly have taken those 10 minutes back. Maybe Will too? I don’t know yet but one thing rings true for both of us. Our lives immediately following the incidents were forgiving. In part because we had positive support systems and role models that immediately activated. My mother came to rescue me and would soon drop me off at college on my first day. Denzel Washington swiftly provided the counsel Will needed to make it through his acceptance speech — which he did to applause.
But what about other Black children and Black men who in moments of passion and uncontrolled emotion commit acts of violence? Specifically, gun violence. This is an incredible reflection considering the public health crisis that is gun violence we are currently experiencing.
On second thought, I’ll revisit the violent crime being committed and first reflect on proactive ways we can prevent the violent crimes from being committed in the first place. I think you’ll notice a common denominator.
There are organizations such as Becoming A Man (BAM), READI Chicago, and Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) who, through their extraordinary and life-saving work, have notable data points on how to reduce violent crime. Once you dig through their data…