Growing up in America, I have seen how drugs have negatively impacted many communities – especially the Black community. I have also seen how the emergence of “street gangs” have negatively impacted many communities – particularly the Black community.
A “street gang” can be described as a group of individuals who share a unique name or symbol, attempt to control their “turf” or a certain territory in a community. Most street gangs are highly sophisticated, extremely organized and engage in a variety of violent or illegal behaviors that effect the general population, such as drug dealing, gun trafficking, aggravated assaults, vandalism, robbery, prostitution rings, fraud, drive-by shootings and much more.
At the end of the day, gang activity and drug activity destroys lives, destroys families, destroys communities and destroys futures.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), there are an approximate 33,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs, with about 1.4 million members, that are criminally active in the United States today. According to the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report, gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions, and up to 90 percent in others. A recent Advancement Project report identified six major risk factors that contribute to gang involvement in urban environments, which include (1) a lack of jobs for youth; (2) poverty; (3) domestic violence; (4) negative peer networks; (5) lack of parental supervision; and (6) early academic failure and lack of school attachment.
I understand the importance of wanting to be a part of a family, which is one of the primary reasons young people join gangs. Many gang members, however, enjoy having a feeling of power as they carry out their agenda of having complete control and dominance over their respective “turf” in their communities.
I defined what a “street gang” was for you, but interestingly, there are plenty of other groups in America that have some of the same tendencies and actions, minus some of the most extreme activities carried out by a “street gang.”
Some of these groups represent entities you may be surprised to see me make a connection to, but that brings me to the point of my article.
Here recently, newly-elected Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner went to southeast Houston (Sunnyside) and stood with community leaders, activists, families of people killed by violence and members of the clergy, and held a press conference to plead with members of the community to help end the bloodshed and violence that has impacted that area, as well as the entire city.
Mayor Turner encouraged the community to get engaged and challenged residents to report any known details of a crime to local authorities.
“Violence is not limited to Sunnyside; it’s all over the city of Houston,” Turner said. “It’s not about what I’m doing; it’s about what we’re going to do together.”
On the surface, Mayor Turner’s comments seem to have been very well received by everyone, but behind the scenes, a new set of gangstas seem to have risen up – some gospel gangstas.
It came to my attention that after Mayor Turner’s press conference, some select members of the clergy in southeast Houston took it upon themselves to reach out to some of the other ministers and activists who were not from that part of town, to steer clear of their “turf” and stay on “their side of town.” What in the world?!? Are you serious?
Since when did ministers of the gospel get into “turf” wars?
Here you have the Mayor of the City of Houston asking everyone to come together to stop the violence, and behind the scenes, you have members of the clergy threatening other ministers and activists to stay away. If that ain’t mind-boggling, I don’t know what is.
How dare we put our personal agendas, along with who gets the credit for the work we do, over the overall call to action to change our communities and save lives? That is shameful!
There is no way you can tell me that God would be pleased with that type of behavior. In the second chapter of Philippians, the scriptures implore us to work together and have a heart to serve without selfishness, not display the type of behavior those ministers allegedly displayed.
Philippians 2: 1-4 reads:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Many members of the Greater Houston community have been up-in-arms about a proposed injunction that officials have been seeking that would prevent 92 alleged gang members from being able to enter a 2-square-mile area of southeast Houston. Many contend that this injunction is a violation of human rights, civil rights and a potential land grab.
The question I have is, can we challenge these select members of the Houston clergy, as well as those across America, to put their egos in check by removing their personal injunctions off of the communities they claim to serve, so that other concerned individuals can stand with them to save lives and end the violence in those communities? We don’t have a need for any more gangs destroying our communities, especially when the gang members are members of the clergy.
Stop trying to be a bunch of Gospel Gangstaz!
Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is a frequent contributor on the Nancy Grace Show and has a daily radio talk show called Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney. He is a Next Generation Project Fellow, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org