What’s up everybody, it’s Uptown Serg. I’m about to hit you with “Culture Wars.”
Just before president Joe Biden announced his planned executive action to combat the spike in violent crime across America, Philadelphia politicians announced their own plans to pour over $150 million into this epidemic with the same intention to stop the rise of violence. This money, they say, will be distributed to recreation centers, victim treatment, employment opportunities for youth, and other programs focused on the youth.
The average citizen might look at these actions as a step in the right direction. Then again, the average citizen is misinformed on the critical issue because the average citizen must focus their energies on personal obligation. Knowing this, mainstream media outlets and certain city leaders have taken advantage of a group of people just wanting to be safe.
The rise of violence can be attributed to several factors. None, however, more important than a growing lack of leadership. No matter how much money the city pumps into this crisis, nothing will change until the culture changes. For years, America has taught people such as myself that the path to success is paved with selfish, competitive, and cutthroat behaviors. And for years, America has funded schools within the inner city for following a script that was written for them long before they were ever born.
Most of us believe that the bulk of this $150 million dollars will go directly into the pockets of those most responsible for the crisis in the first place. Still, even if this money is spent on those so-called intervention methods, the push to prevent violence in Philadelphia also fail because politicians have consistently refused to acknowledge that the leaders most capable of reversing this crisis are languishing in prison where they’re cutoff from any of your interaction with the society.
There are several cultural barriers in play here, and I want to briefly show you what those barriers look like and how they function as an impediment to progress. Then we can work to overcome those impediments.
The politicians and city leaders who come together and decide how to handle these issues often have no real connections to the community’s youth who are targeted in these programs. The key to reaching inner city youth immersed in a culture of crime and competition is credibility, more specifically street credibility.
Elected officials and their handpicked ambassadors have made their careers by disconnecting themselves from the so-called streetlights. On the other hand, men and women on the inside of prison have the credibility necessary to reach these younger people. Moreover, elected officials aren’t really disconnected from the streets.
They’re also disconnected from the countless prisoners who possess the skills to influence behavior in our community. If you’re an elected official or handpicked ambassador, you need to understand something. Your college degree means nothing to the youth who are on a quest for dignity, respect, and recognition. Your self-righteous posture is what’s keeping young people from trusting, while it also keeps you from working with the leaders in prison.
It may be tough to hear, but you don’t have the answers. In a situation like this with all its complexities, the messenger is just as important as the message. Like it or not, young people in the community need to hear this message from the older people who they continue to look up to. And those people are us. It’s time for you to allow us to use our reputations for something good.
None of us are proud of our past, but it’s our past which now give us the credibility to influence those who are blindly following in our footsteps. What good is prison if a person such as myself is denied the opportunity of redemption by helping young men avoid making the same fatal decisions that I once made? The barriers that keep us separated were put in place by you, and only you can remove them.
Thanks for listening. I’m Uptown Serg, and you can follow me on Instagram @uptownserg and read more at hrcoalition.org.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.