What can be done to challenge the violence that continues to plague the city of Baltimore?
A group of 52 African-American men here considered that demanding question in recent weeks and decided to take action.
We believe the time has come for black men in Baltimore to not just talk about the issues of crime, violence, dropout rates and fatherhood, but to also resolve - once and for all - that we are the solution.
Black men in Baltimore can ill afford to wait on another violent incident in the schools to occur, or wait for another family to be terrorized by street thugs. It is very clear that the violence in our schools and on our streets, the high dropout and incarceration rates, the increasing unemployment rates and the rising number of absentee fathers have reached epidemic proportions in the city. There is little time left for finger-pointing, excuse-making and sideline protestations.
Now, we are calling on black men to mobilize, to eliminate murder, minimize crime and create peace in our communities.
Black men are encouraged to volunteer in some manner with an organization that promotes or sponsors activities or services directed at enhancing the life options and life opportunities of African-American male children, youths and adults. We urge black men to support other black men who have a desire to change their lives by directing them to appropriate resource providers, ranging from organizations that specialize in job readiness, family strengthening and male mentoring to re-entry and substance abuse programs.
The group has scheduled a Convention Center rally Sunday to kick off this effort. Symbolically and literally, every black man in our city is being asked to come together on Father's Day, to pray together, to work together to rescue our children together, to reduce the violence in our communities together, and to reaffirm family life together.
This gathering is just the beginning. In coming days and weeks, Baltimore's black men must collectively reach the conclusion that enough is enough and that business as usual is no longer acceptable.
We earnestly issue a call to action to every black man in Baltimore - no matter what his political slant, his economic status or his religious affiliation. Look around at our community - it is our responsibility.
Alvin O. Gillard is director of the Baltimore Human Relations Commission. Richard A. Rowe is president and CEO of the African American Male Leadership Institute.
A video of leaders of this group explaining their goals can be seen at baltimoresun.com/call.