As salaamu alaikum and greetings people,
Just a little reflection of how important it is to engage the youth. I was on the train today, and I saw these two young kids. They were your typical young Black youth of today; brash, loud with expletives, and no sense of good behavior in public. To them, they were just being regular, but it was obvious that other passengers were a little disturbed (and perhaps even scared). I began to listen to their conversations, which consisted of drugs, girls, video games, and even school! They were on their way to Trenton, New Jersey, a town that is notorious for gang activity. One of the kids who was from Camden, New Jersey had on a red bandana, so for him to go into another town not being known, he was subject to being “G-checked”, or having his credibility as a gang member verified. If he doesn’t meet the verifications, he would be liable to getting hurt. His friend told him how serious it was, and although he tried to act tough (“I’m from Camden, ain’t nobody gonna do nothing to me!”), it occurred to him the seriousness of the situation, because he took the bandana off. As they were going back and forth with more jokes, I chimed in, “I see you took that bandana off!” They both laughed, and then the conversation went to how serious the gang culture is. I asked them what it meant to them, and the one kid who cautioned the other said it meant nothing, because they weren’t in it. We rode a little bit more, and we all ended up getting off at the same stop. Before we departed, I shook their hands and ‘dapped them up’ (embraced them with a hug) and I told them, “Listen man, whatever you get into, just be cool; we need you all alive”. They nodded their heads in agreement. Coincidentally, I saw the same two young men again on the train ride back, and they had come back from doing what they do (and by the looks in their eyes, they went to smoke with their buddies), and when they saw me again, the first thing they did was shake my hand. We talked a little bit more, then they got off on a stop before mine. Moral of the story: there is a lot we can do when we engage these kids. Imagine when I see them again in sha’allah; the scene is set for dialogue. Engagement is key!