Clarion Call

Clarion Call

When this bugle was blown in 2013, it was a call to the heavens and the earth to rise up and help our young generation. This bugle call symbolizes my deep desire to see Brockton youth’s voice be heard. The sound from this bugle represents the voice of many youths in our community, who are struggling to make meaning out of the many challenges surrounding them.

My one-to-one walk with youths, whether on the street or in the Brigade, has revealed that a generation of youth are crying out for our attention. These children have deep needs and desires which cannot be seen on the surface. Often, these needs disguise themselves and are exhibited in the form of anger, rage, disobedience, indiscipline, negative attitudes, and the craving for substances to hide or numb these needs.

We must admit that the definition of family in our contemporary age has shifted. The traditional family system has broken down, and often single moms and (sometimes) single dads are now raising children all by themselves. These moms (and dads), at the same time, work two or three jobs, and are often overwhelmed with life’s challenges. The consequences of what I will describe as “absent parents” cannot be overemphasized. The children are falling between the cracks. They have questions which Google and Siri cannot adequately answer; they need a healthy human presence. Our children need us to honestly tell them how we made it through when we were their age. They have hurts and pains. They are overwhelmed with schoolwork, peer pressure, and broken relationships in the family. They are surrounded by friends and families struggling with addiction, depression, and mental health issues. Many  young childrenhave been molested by close family members, which they dare not talk about. These children seem to be asking, “Where is God in all this?”

While these challenges can be generalized, the gender identity and the struggle each gender faces is very unique. The innocent and naive voices of our young girls are filled with both love and fear. While they crave true love and companionship, they have the phobia of been taken advantage of. The fear of being raped, bullied, or of being lonely. Our young ladies have been robbed of their self-confidence and self-esteem. Like everyone, they too are asking, “Where is God?” For the boys, who have been stereotyped to “be strong,” but who don’t know how to express the pain of the absent fathers, their pain and fear remain suppressed in the subconscious and will surface when triggered by societal demands. Our young seem to be saying, “I don’t know how to be a husband or a father, for I have not experienced one myself.” Our young men are afraid of committing to any long-term relationship called “marriage.” They are not sure if they will be able to meet the challenges of the relationship. They are looking for a place where their own woundedness can be healed.

I have heard the voices of our young ones calling for help and deliverance from drugs and violence. My volunteer time as a chaplain in the South Shore area hospitals brought me close encounters with youth of all ages and races, beginning from age 8, who are asking for help. In the emergency room, when they are going through detox, you hear words like, “I am tired of all this,” “I am tired of hurting myself, but I don’t know how to stop. I have been here many times and I seem to be dying gradually, my life is a mess, I need help!” Unfortunately, the system has no long-term solutions for these children; they are detoxed, discharged to a rehab, and soon released back to the same environment which oppresses and influences them, and the circle continues.

The Brigade Youth Program is my God-given answer to all these challenges. The bugle has been sounded in Brockton. It calls on all parents and guardians to bring their children to the program, after school and on weekends. The bugle also calls on all children, ages 7 – 18, to step up and fight for their lives, by committing to and attending the Brigade every week. This is a call to all to rise up and help. None of us will be able to do this all alone. We need to come together and build a village, where the future leaders can be raised with love.

At the Brigade Youth Program, each child is evaluated for needs and potential, through the Individualized, Education, Social, and Spiritual Plan (IESSP). I was inspired to develop the IESSP by the IEP plans in special education. The program affords us the opportunity to match each child’s unique and individual needs with mentors and resources.

My dream for the Brigade is that we become a healing place of refuge, where children can have trusted adults and friends as mentors. My dream is for the Brigade to be a place where all lives and talents can be valued and nurtured to fruition and where differences will be a gift rather than a challenge.

Are you a parent, teacher, musician, driver, medical practitioner, or a pastor? Can you give a ride or ride as chaperon with children in a van? Can you or your church provide meals once or twice a month? Can you pray for this program from home?

I invite you to join us today, as we build this village through the Brigade Youth Program in Brockton.

They Are Singing Your Song

When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else.

When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child’s song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child’s song. When the child passes through the initiation to adulthood, the people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song.

Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the person’s bed, just as they did at their birth, and they sing the person to the next life.

To the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.

The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.

A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.

You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognize our song and sing it well.

You may feel a little warbly at the moment, but so have all the great singers. Just keep singing and you’ll find your way home.

Written by Alan Cohen

Adopted by Moses Sowale.

Field Trips

Getting out of town and seeing the different cultural and educational opportunities that are nearby can help to open a child’s mind to all of the possibilities the world has to offer. For too many children, especially those who are not financially privileged, the world can seem small, relegated only to their neighborhood. Helping children to learn the immensity of the world around them and al that God has provided can give them the strength to avoid gangs and to see their problems in a larger context, making decisions easier.

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