Group looks back to build a future

June 20, 2007|By GREGORY KANE

When Michelle Goldsborough returns to St. Michaels from her New Jersey home, it's usually to visit her relatives in the Talbot County tourist spot. Or sometimes she just might check into a room at the Harbourtowne Golf Resort and Conference Center to be alone.

But last weekend when Goldsborough visited the resort - where she worked when she lived in St. Michaels - she had plenty of company. And that's just the way she wanted it.

About a dozen youngsters - most of them black boys between the ages of 11 and 17 - were with Goldsborough. The three women who co-founded the Parents Empowerment Group with her were on hand as well. The occasion was the first - and what Goldsborough hopes will be annual - Black Youth Empowerment Retreat and Black History Tour.

"I feel as African-Americans we're not empowered," Goldsborough said Sunday afternoon as she sat in a chair at the resort, unwinding after a hectic two-day schedule. "Our children need to be empowered. You can't be empowered, if you don't know who you are."

It's the young black men and boys who only feel empowered when they have guns and use them against other black youth who most concern Goldsborough and Amelia Brown, Sandra Dorsey and Dominique London, her co-members in the Parents Empowerment Group. The women started the organization after they all grew alarmed at the staggering number of young black men and teens who are killing each other.

No, Baltimore isn't the only Bodymore, Murderland, around when it comes to young black males. The women in the Parents Empowerment Group see it in New Jersey and Philadelphia, too. It wasn't any one murder or even the body count that made Goldsborough realize she had to do something. It was the ages of those bodies.

"They were 15, 16, 21," Goldsborough said. "I noticed their parents crying on television and said, `That could have been my son.'"

Goldsborough, a litigation paralegal, actually overheard one of her white co-workers talking about the numbers of black-on-black murders.

"They're killing each other," Goldsborough remembers the co-worker saying. It was then that Goldsborough knew she had to act.

The first step was forming the Parents Empowerment Group. The next was reaching the youth. How best to do that?

Goldsborough thought a retreat at the Harbourtowne resort and a history tour of Talbot and Dorchester counties - focusing on the lives of Maryland natives Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman - might be a good start. She contacted several black businesses, churches and organizations. One of those who came through, and came through big, was Baltimore attorney Warren Brown.

"Without him, this retreat would never have happened," Goldsborough said more than once over the weekend.

But happen it did, with a session Friday night in which the youths introduced themselves. The next day they heard messages of inspiration and encouragement from Brown and Paul "Earthquake" Moore. Moore is a Philadelphia activist and former pro boxer who runs a boot camp for wayward youth and who said he has been known to shut down a crack house or two.

Moore also said he did a stint as a professional wrestler, mixing it up at one point with George "The Animal" Steele. Moore said he lost, but I'm willing to bet he could beat Steele, who communicated in monosyllabic grunts, in a diction match any day.

After Moore and Brown spoke, the group made the Frederick Douglass history tour of St. Michaels. Then it was on to Hurlock in Dorchester County to visit the Harriet Tubman Center, and then to Cambridge for a tour of the offices of the Harriet Tubman Organization.

"It is my belief that if our children learn what our ancestors went through to get to where we are at today, they will make choices that will empower them," Goldsborough said.

Goldsborough knows about bad choices. She was addicted to crack at one time, which caused her personal and legal problems that haunt her to this day. She's wrestled the crack demon and pinned him. But the problem with the crack demon is that no matter how many times he's been pinned, the sucker keeps demanding rematches.

Goldsborough has won every one of those rematches for the past eight years. She cleaned herself up because she didn't want to leave her two sons with the legacy of a mother who died as a crack addict.

Now she wants another legacy, as one of a group of women who tried to stem the tide of homicides among black youth. Taking a handful of those youth on one weekend retreat might not seem like much, but Goldsborough and the women in her group know one thing.

Doing nothing is no longer an option.

greg.kane@baltsun.com

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