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Gangs, AIDS are killing the next generation

This was first published in the Tuesday, August 5th edition of The Daily Dispatch

Over the past week and a half, I stayed as disconnected from sports as I possibly could while I vacationed. There were some stories I couldn’t avoid (Brett Favre’s continued saga, Boston’s shipment of Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers) but I was numb to the rest of the sports world.
There were two non-sports related stories that caught my attention more than any sports news of the past week.

No. 1 — On Saturday, July 26, there was a melee at the Triangle Town Center mall in Raleigh, N.C. where an upwards of 300 were involved. There were 20-odd arrests and nearly all were young people. And of course they were black.

Raleigh’s police said that the brawl was gang related. I have no doubt that gangs played a vital role in what went down at Triangle Town — I have the issue with who are making up members.

Watching the clip from the melee — which was reported to be found on YouTube — you see a teenaged male being handcuffed and subdued on the floor while a circle of youths stand around. Everyone in the clip — besides an officer — were black. Cameras in the courtroom of the first five of seven who were arraigned — including a girl who said that she was a bystander but was charged with inciting a riot and assault on an officer — are black.

Gangs in the black community isn’t an anomaly. Gang violence is also common. From New York to Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Raleigh, Henderson (N.C.) and even my hometown of 5,500 aren’t immune to this toxic element of society. But it’s still disheartening to see black youths fall victim to this monstrosity.

But what other choice do they have? We, as a collective community effort, need to provide them with alternatives. We need to show them that there are other ways to go. We need to show the youths that we care — instead of showing them that we don’t.

No. 2 — A report was released that AIDS is so rampant in the black community that African Americans would be third worse in the world, in front of Ethiopia and above the Ivory Coast if we were a separate nation. The report stated that one in every two people living with HIV in the United States is black.

Blacks, young blacks, have the tendency to have unprotected sex. (AIDS remains the leading cause of death among black women between ages 25 and 34 and it’s the second-leading cause of death in black men 35-44.) Although condoms aren’t full proof in protecting against pregnancy, the number of black children coming out of wedlock (70 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock) shows that more likely than not, going “raw” was the means of the sexual relations.

Which all accumulates to the spreading of AIDS. Not only are children being born, so is the potential of death. Using condoms may not protect against parenthood, they can preserve your life.

Sports can sometimes make us forget about the problems we face or are used as a band-aid to cover an ugly wound caused by some type of injury over time. But the truth is that as games end, seasons change and players retire, life goes on along with the problems in them. These stories that were reported during my vacation wasn’t about race, they were about life, they were about us as a community at-large.

In the end, the final score doesn’t determine who won or lost — just the lives that are saved.

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