….Or Does It Explode?

Every young person, in every city and country, has the right to health, education, and a secure stake in the future. We owe it to them to provide them with the tools they need to lead safe, healthy, and fulfilling lives, and to nurture and respect their leadership. If we don’t, the failure lies with us, not them.

When young people grow up in an environment where they face systematic oppression and violence every day – when they are denied access to education, health care, and economic opportunity – when law enforcement and the judicial system don’t protect them but treat them as targets – when trauma, disorder, and pain are realities throughout their lives – who is at fault when their anger and disenfranchisement take a destructive shape?

We are at fault.

Nobody wants to see their child shot down by police officers. Nobody wants to see their community burn. But here we are, and we have to examine how we got here. We leave too many young people behind, in the grip of poverty and desperation, with no belief in their own value and no path to realizing their potential. Then we blame and vilify them as “thugs.”

What we are witnessing is the result of young people who have not just seen their dreams deferred but their lives devalued and their communities dismantled. Yet as young and old come together to clean up Baltimore today, we see what could be, if we value and invest in our young people.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

– Langston Hughes