What is a gang or what are gangs? Gangs are generally made up of children and young adults of the general vicinity in which they operate. Yes a gang may seemingly move into an area and establish dominance. However, in order to flourish it must recruit young members from the families of that neighborhood and locale. Although on a somewhat grander scale, the same exist for a lawless indiscriminate rebel force (African civil war) whose operational vicinity I have lived within and felt the daily pressures of conscription and threats to my life as a teenage boy. What are gangs or rebel forces using to attract the youth of our communities? The missing promises in their young lives of:
- Excitement and attention
- Friendship, family, and belonging
- Material success
- Popularity and notoriety (recognizable brand)
- Family Tradition
- Familial love
I was asked by a news reporter recently, the family expert that I am, to give my opinion on stopping gang activity and violence in a particular neighborhood. However, since my response was not one of the immediate and temporary fixes which never work but are frequently being applied across this nation, he seemed to be unable to connect with a long term but effective solution. Well let me emphasize it once more, "Quick fixes to gang infested communities will never work." More importantly, rather than exclude the inhabiting families while city councils come up with midnight basketball leagues, handball, and other attracting activities for gang involved youth, the family and elder connections to gang members must be included.
What is the solution?
In the case of civil war locations like Rwanda and Liberia, or the apartheid unrest in South Africa among others, a "truth and reconciliation" council is established. The purpose is to find the truth and give the victims and perpetrators a chance to say and reveal all that is inside them. The strategic key is that ownership of the situation is put back on the community and ultimately families to express, discuss, and reconcile their deep-rooted differences and concerns. But more importantly, they receive the gift of an amazing opportunity and second chance to solve a problem that they once failed miserably at addressing. Observe, the lasting solutions in these communities have not just involved mental reconditioning of perpetrators but have instead fully involved the families which make up the communities.
The same is the answer for gang violence in our communities. It must begin with the family, typically the families of the gang members we desire to reach so desperately. As such, resources have to be introduced that allow or motivate the families and community to choose to be greater involved in the solution. I am not speaking of handouts (welfare checks, etc). In many instances involving these communities there are long lasting and deep rooted family involvement and affiliations to the gang problem also. Yet we continue to be blind and ignore the fact that, like the rest of us the "so called" fortunate, these families are seeking a better life rather than "happily" see their children killed.
As an author and speaker on the subject of family, I work with families by offering/providing "multi-generational family legacy" seminars (uncommon language in US) that are intense and purposefully introduce long term family thinking. These seminars provide motivation, strategies, reasons, and more where families like these develop purpose for becoming a part of the solution, as well as finding the better lives they seek ultimately. We need to start the conversation with the parents and families of the community, as well as bring those gang members (leaders especially) who are willing to listen. Soon we will begin to cultivate a long term impact and solution for the community. GIVE THEM THE SOLUTIONS THEY SEEK, RATHER THAN FAILED POLICIES WE CHOOSE TO GIVE!