More services coming to Liberty City families, youth

caines | 2/21/2013, 4:30 a.m.

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Intensive services model successful Harlem Childrens Zone

Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Childrens Zone, Inc., was the keynote speaker recently at the Caleb Center where he addressed families and youth about ways to build Liberty Citys future and reclaim the community block-by-block. And while Harlem is a long way from Liberty City, the kinds of challenges that Blacks face in both communities suggest that if change is going to happen, it will require the collective efforts of parents, children, teachers, preachers and elected officials. But can Canadas model for change in which he has transformed almost 100 blocks in a neighborhood where children were never supposed to have a chance be replicated here in Liberty City? The Miami Childrens Initiative [MCI] believes it can. Thats why the nonprofit organization was established in 2008 by the Florida Legislature with the vision to transform three of Floridas most challenging yet promising areas: Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville. Residents and local business people, as well as leaders in health care, education and human services, have all given their support to the community-wide initiative. As in the case of Canadas Harlem Childrens Zone, MCI, led by its board chairperson Annie Neasman, believes that Liberty Citys greatest strength lies in the undeveloped potential of its youth. Additionally, the belief is that through focused strategic work, the potential of each child can be unleashed.

Canadas challenge

Shame on us if we dont care for our kids, Canada said. We may not know how we let things get this bad but its way past time to make a change. We are not preparing our children for the job force of tomorrow they lack the needed skills and education. Meanwhile, we have a system that is designed so that when there are no jobs for our kids, there is another place for them prison. In fact, the U.S. has more people in prison, 744/100,000, than any other country on the planet. And most of the inmates look like us. Liberty City is a lot like Harlem was 25 years ago. Back then I had gotten used to the trash, the violence, the drug dealers on the corners, the kids running wild and the graffiti. I got so used to it that I began to ignore what was happening around me. Our children need our help. You have to be as determined as I was to fix whats broken.

Success should not be determine by where one lives

School board member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall says we are on the right path. MCI has a designated Impact Zone [from NW 59th St. to NW 63rd St. and 15th Ave. to 22nd Ave.] where positive change is happening, she said. We are following Canadas lead and making sure more of our children are ready for school, succeeding in school and able to both enter and graduate from college. Thats how we change Liberty City. Can something good come out of Liberty City? asked State Representative Cynthia Stafford. Well, I am a product of this community. Dr. Bendross-Mindingall is a product of this community. People believed in us and helped us reach our fullest potential. Thats what we have to continue to do for each generation. Children should not be defined by their zip codes. Ninth graders from Miami Northwestern Senior High School know that Liberty City can be a dangerous place in which to live. Their parents realize that raising a child here can be a daunting experience given our schools that lack adequate resource, gangs that are running rampant and violence which occurs on practically every corner. But when Northwesterns freshman class was asked to read Canadas book, Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun, and write an essay addressing the question, What can adults and youth do now to create a safe place to live in Liberty City?, their responses were chilling. Boom, boom, boom everybody get down, is how Brandy Cauley began her essay. For Jawan Johnson, his perspective was similar: Wow! Another drive-by. Another one of my friends dead. Man, its crazy and its here. Teens and adults are getting killed left and right. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com