Commentary: Do marches, curfews and home training matter?

Commentary: Do marches, curfews and home training matter?
May 28
00:00 2015

In above photo: A young person protests the death of black man in police custody in Baltimore in early May. (Associated Press photo)

By James B. Ewers Jr.
Guest Columnist

I can remember marching for equal rights when I was a college student in the late ’60s. The marches served as a rallying point for us as we believed that they would make a difference. I believe, rather I know, they did make a difference.

In my opinion it is what happens after the marches that is the most important. Opposition to current practices means as citizens we must make changes in laws and who administers them.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave us as African-Americans the right to vote. If we do not vote, then change cannot occur. Sitting at home when it is time to vote will only weaken our positions.

Recent events in Baltimore and other cities across America highlight the power of voting. Some college students chose to participate in the marches while others did not. Yet the common thread is that every college student must exercise their right to vote.

I believe that as a result of events in Baltimore, Cleveland and New York, college students have started voter registration campaigns on their campuses. The only way to affect change is to be a change agent yourself. If you are “talking” about the change, then you must be the change. It truly is the doing of the talking. Waiting for progress without orchestrating the progress will be futile and will only trigger other pockets of civil discord.

The mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, lifted the 10 p.m. curfew that had been enforced to curb the violence in the city. Many involved in the protests were young people. Many cities in America have curfews for young students, so this was not a new strategy.

There has been much debate about whether the curfew was an effective tool. I believe in this instance that it was. Being on the streets of Baltimore at night was simply not a good idea. So instituting the curfew was a matter of safety and welfare for residents. Some took exception to the curfew, such as Tracey Hines, who works at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. She wore a T-shirt that said “No More Curfew”.

If you are of my generation, we did not have curfews, per say. Our curfew began when the street lights came on! That was a signal to go home. All activities and talking ended at that time. Our parents didn’t have to come out of the house to make any curfew announcement. If you wanted to be out with your boys on tomorrow, then you better be inside tonight.

Maybe one of the lessons learned in cities that have curfews is to create a system of parent councils. These councils could implement better practices and habits for their children.

I have said many times that there are two ships: the parent ship and the friend ship. If you want to set some guidelines and some lofty goals for children to aspire to, then welcome aboard the parent ship. However, if you want to give your children all freedom and leeway, then you will sink on the friend ship. For example, buying your child the latest name brand tennis shoe thinking that will appease him or her will lead you down the wrong road.

There are no guarantees that black boys and men won’t be killed under questionable circumstances, but we as parents and grandparents must do our part to help to prevent it.

There are more mentoring programs for young African-American males than ever. The overarching goal for each of them is to shape the futures of these young men. I applaud them because I am a part of some of them. We don’t save them all, yet we save enough to keep hope alive.

Yet missing in too many of these programs is parental involvement. Parents cannot wait for someone else to teach their children “home training.” There is enough data to suggest that parents are younger now. As a result, young parents having children is almost a recipe for disaster.

It may be wise and prudent to put more emphasis on teaching parents how to be parents. If we can equip new parents with the necessary skills, young boys and girls will mature into good decision-makers. Life regardless of race and gender involves making good decisions.

Summer is here and school is out. Some of our parents and children will be at a crossroads. Which ship will they be travelling on over the months to come? Will it be the parent ship or the friend ship?

James B. Ewers Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School and played college tennis at Johnson C Smith University where he was all-conference for four years.
He is the President Emeritus of The Teen Mentoring Committee of Ohio and a retired college administrator. He can be reached at

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