The Question Damon Weaver Wanted to Ask Barack Obama

“President Obama, what can you do to help Pahokee?”

Pahokee, Florida, in Palm Beach County, is Damon Weaver’s hometown. And 10-year-old Damon Weaver is the celebrated “kid reporter,” who has recently gotten an early scholarship to Albany State University for interviewing famous people during the 2008 campaign, from Colin Powell to Joe Biden. But he has yet to score an interview with the new Commander-in-Chief, I believe, because Pahokee is a microcosm of what has gone wrong in black America, and I think Obama doesn’t want to touch this yet with a barge pole.

Good Morning, America sent Damon to help show Barack Obama and America what Pahokee is like. While Pahokee is known for sugar cane and sending a few players to the National Football League, it’s got a big problem with gangs and street violence. One of Damon’s friends, 11-year-old Jertavius, is shown in the segment accompanied by his grandmother, because Jertavius’ father was shot dead, and no one wants to step up and name the murderer still on the street, for fear of retaliation. (That’s why I loathe the “No Snitching” rule, prevalent in black communities today.)

People need good jobs in these hard times, but black people need jobs as well. When I was in Harlem, I was shocked to find that 50% of black men in the city were unemployed. Most major cities report this figure, and it may actually be higher. This meant that either black men were living on the streets, living by their wits in the gang culture, or living with relatives like a mother or a sister, and trying to get a minimum wage job here and there, and trying to cope. I used to see black men of all ages with shopping carts during the spring, and trying to get warm in pokey little corner grocery stores that would accept them and were open all night in the winter. They were doing everything except be useful and productive and contributing to the community, and thus to the country. And frankly, I don’t think that is what they really wanted.

I hope that this scholarship is not a consolation prize for Damon, because that is not what he wants from Obama. He wants, and I am sure many more in black America want Obama to make a positive mark in the community that is not bootstrapping, trickle-down platitudes that will get these young men off the streets swearing off guns and ignorant talk, and the cops off everyone’s backs. It doesn’t mean that with a wave of his hand that Obama will wipe away all tears. However, these young men and women need to see some job programs that will pay a living wage, and perhaps some new industries to come into Pahokee that will reward all according to their skills. It’s only in jail that these young men and women finally get an education; why does that have to be?

Damon Weaver in the Obama poster colors; but he hasn't gotten his interview yet (Courtesy: luvreforsale)

Damon Weaver in the Obama poster colors; but he hasn't gotten his interview yet (Courtesy: luvreforsale)

There was a story I saw long ago in Harper’s or The Atlantic about what happened to the young men who were surviving members in the notorious Black September group. It seems the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were at a loss to do something about them at the time, because Arafat had decreed no attacks on Israel, and because these young men could conceivably make trouble on their own. So this is what the leaders did: they gave these young men homes, a job, and later, when they became financially stable, they were introduced to young women who wanted to become wives and mothers. And wonder of wonders, they put down the guns and became responsible adults and citizens. In other words, the PLO gave them something to live for, something that gave their lives meaning, when formerly they told them that they had nothing to lose. I say that our country has not shown to many of our young men that they have something to live for, and that their lives have meaning. If parent(s) say it, if a community says it, then it is supposed to be true, but sometimes it is not enough. It’s a reality has to be confirmed from within and without.

Street violence resembles a kind of terrorism practiced on city streets, streets that were never meant to be battlegrounds, but neutral by-ways of social interaction. Men and boys are waiting to die. Women are afraid for husbands, lovers and grandchildren. People make bling and dope more valuable than human life. It’s a sick way to live, but these kids have made gangsta a way of life that will only end much too soon. They’ve also made gangsta the only alternative to stasis or succumbing to what the current Pahokee economy has in store for them.

And that is why I think Barack Obama is not going to meet with Damon Weaver, at least not right now. I’d hate to think that Obama will never meet with this little wide-eyed, frank child, who wore a tux at the Roots Inaugural Ball and interviewed participants, and who is called “cute” and “darling.” Because the answers the boy seeks is not necessarily just in him or in his neighbors, but also in Obama and his policies that will impact African Americans. And Obama cannot shy away from that responsibility, no matter how he may dodge or delay it.

~ by blksista on May 3, 2009.

5 Responses to “The Question Damon Weaver Wanted to Ask Barack Obama”

  1. […] In early May, I wrote about Damon Weaver and especially about his question for Obama: “President Obama, what can you do to help Pahokee?” […T]he answers the boy seeks is not necessarily just in him or in his neighbors, but also in Obama and his policies that will impact African Americans. And Obama cannot shy away from that responsibility, no matter how he may dodge or delay it. Damon Weaver has gotten his interview but was it worth it? (Courtesy: luvreforsale) […]

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  2. […] The Question Damon Weaver Wanted to Ask Barack Obama « This Black … […]

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  3. […] from The Black Sista’s Page “President Obama, what can you do to help […]

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  4. […] blksista put an intriguing blog post on The Question Damon Weaver Wanted to Ask Barack Obama « This Black …Here’s a quick excerptGood Morning, America sent Damon to help show Barack Obama and America what Pahokee is like. While Pahokee is known for sugar cane and sending a few players to the National Football League, it’s got a big problem with gangs and street … […]

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  5. […] This post was Twitted by allmyyears – Real-url.org […]

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