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‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

CHICAGO – An answer to a question like “Am I my brother’s keeper?” truly depends on who you ask. I suppose the confusion can come from whether the phrase is interpreted by an English translation and not its original Hebrew meaning, as well as the numerous otherwise well-meaning organizations that have taken it as their motto. After all, Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "to keep" as "to watch over and defend especially from danger, harm, or loss." However, Webster's also defines "to keep" as "to restrain from departure" and "to retain or continue to have in one's possession or power." So what meaning does "brother's keeper" have in regards to your way of thinking?

LANSING -- The violence that plagues the streets day-in-day-out cannot help but make one pause, and wonder, “what is my role in all of this?”
LANSING -- The violence that plagues the streets day-in-day-out cannot help but make one pause, and wonder, “what is my role in all of this?”
photo collage by me, Ms. Rhonda B.
Notarized, Inc. Social Club ~
photo collage by me, Ms. Rhonda B.

Do we have a responsibility to watch out for and care for one another? One school of thought is that living up to one’s responsibility must include all others: to love one another as Christ loved us - Jn 13:34-35. Are we commanded in the Scripture to be our brother’s keeper? “Am I my brother’s keeper?” brings us back to the questions of what is the definition of “keeper,” and who is our “brother?" Does this mean taking responsibility for another person? Does it mean, as Cain thought, “following him around all day and trying to keep track of what he does?" Does it mean nagging individuals about their bad habits, controlling what they say, or do, making their decisions for them, bailing them out of their problems when they make bad choices, and lying for them when they are in a pinch or any number of other actions?

What do the words “brother’s keeper” really mean to you? The idea of “brother” is the essence of democracy. The idea of “keeper” is the underlying essence of Nazism, socialism, and communism. For a few seconds, let us apply this “brother’s keeper” idea to areas of life that we are all concerned about: our youth, ongoing violence, and all of the senseless killings. Today’s black America is confronted with some of the same social, civic, economic, and political issues that were prevalent during slavery and during the time of Malcolm X’s speech in Selma, Alabama to the Student-nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The contention is that people of African descent are sometimes their own worst enemies—often tearing each other apart and creating separate Black communities until they are completely divided and conquered from within. A challenging question that Malcolm X faced was "when will the house Negros stop fighting the field Negros?"At the end of the day, black folks have no economic values a community, no political influence as a collective body, and no generational wealth centers for economic prosperity. Are “Blacks” in America any better off as a people since the signing of the Civil Rights Act some fifty years ago? What happened to lifting as we climb? When one brother or sister succeeds, is not he or she supposed to reach back and pulls another up (Sankofa)? What happened to succession and succession planning of the leadership in black communities? Why are the house Negros still fighting and looking down on the field Negros, while simultaneously forgetting the struggle and fulfilling the mainstream’s economic agenda? Or, are they doing this?

The truth of the matter is that “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is actually a question for some and a statement for many others; this is evidenced by the many not-for-profit and philanthropy groups that are hitting the pavement day by day, making a difference within communities, and saving lives one young person at a time.

Stopping the violence ~ is more of a journey than just the destination:

1. KLEO Community Life Family Center ~

2. Phillip Jackson and his Black Star Project ~

3. Operation PUSH Rainbow Coalition is a bit of a relic, but Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. is doing his part to “Keep Hope Alive” ~

4. Notarized, Inc. Social Club ~ Dante Wolf Wilson, and Mr. D.

5. Hope Presbyterian Church ~
~ as well as many other local churches

6. Kenya Renee, Film Producer / Director ~

7. N’ The Know w/ Moe, Radio Show host, elected official, and community activist

8. Playwright, producer Dr. William Martin and his wife, author / playwright, Diane Martin

9. Ulysses “U.S.” Floyd ~ The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention

10. Noah’s Arc Foundation

11. Jennifer Sam North / Lobbyist

12. Attorney Jeffery Leving / Fathers’ rights advocate ~

13. Lupe Fiasco ~

14. Romal Tune / Author of God’s Graffiti ~

15. Rev. Mike Wilkins / SPAA Theatre ~

16. PAC ~ Prisoners Against Crime

Cable TV talk show host, Ms. Rhonda B., from the “Voices of Mass Discussion” would love to interview you or a representative of your organization about what you know, or are doing to make this world a better place:

“If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing” ~ Malcolm X