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In the New Year, Let Us Grow With the Work

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Rev. Al Sharpton, NNPA ColumnistEvery year, we all rally together with family and friends to celebrate the holidays and ring in the dawning of yet another new year, a new start and a new beginning. We diligently make resolutions – some minor, and others life altering – that we emphatically boast to each other and to ourselves. The harsh reality is that most of us either overreach in our goals, or simply don’t put forth the dedication, discipline and fortitude necessary to bring our resolutions to fruition. As we kick off a new decade, I challenge all of us to judiciously strive for the betterment of ourselves, our communities and for all of humanity. In line with establishing realistic, yet meaningful goals, I myself have set aside three major tasks that I must accomplish in this new beginning. For starters, I have to look no further than the organization that I’ve invested my heart and soul into – National Action Network.

Continuously on the forefront of issues affecting the community, from police brutality to economic and political disenfranchisement to racial profiling, NAN is easily recognized as a voice for the voiceless. With 45 chapters in cities and towns around the country, NAN has become a staple for those seeking justice and equality. And although 45 chapters with limited resources is a rewarding sense of purpose, I have only begun.

This year, we will take those 45 chapters and turn them into 100 chapters. As the work of social justice and civil rights continues to grow, we must grow with it. As the people continue to need our help, we must be more accessible to them.

And wherever injustice occurs, we must be able to stand firmly in unison and take action. In order to achieve more, we must be in more locations. 100 chapters in 100 cities in 2010.

This brings me to my second point:

In order to effectively empower people, we must first and foremost educate them. Education itself can take root in a multitude of arenas from the classroom, to the simple altering of people’s mindsets. This year, I will continue the fight to perfect our education reform initiative for children in impoverished communities everywhere so that they too may have a fighting chance to make it in this world. An educated youth are an engaged, powerful body that can use their strength for more constructive measures instead of blindly killing one another. In line with my push for education reform, I will work to end the nonsensical violence that is permeating our streets throughout the nation. The value of human life must be restored, and we all must tackle the underlying issues that create such anger and frustration among our children. Young people need to be armed with textbooks and pens, not guns and knives.

And last, but by no means least, is the simple fact that it is time to deal with the overwhelming economic crisis we are in. Statistically, the national unemployment average wavers around 10 percent but we all know that in communities of color, that percentage is double – sometimes triple that - we can just look at Detroit. We need to come to terms with the blatant fact that people in our neighborhoods are suffering, businesses are suffering and the entire family structure is suffering. Severe unemployment and economic hardship almost always lead to increased crime, violence, depression and an overall sense of hopelessness. While politicians continue to battle over the best way forward, the people are hurting. When parents work three jobs in order to put dinner on the table, or when a mother must give up her meal in order for her children to eat, we have a serious problem. When shelters are forced to turn away folks due to overcrowding, and tent cities pop up everywhere because families have lost their homes, we are in a tremendous crisis. It’s time to create realistic, sustaining economic development, and time to support our businesses, our radio stations and our newspapers. It’s time to save ourselves before it’s too late.

As 2010 begins amidst growing concerns on a host of issues, I ask all of us to take a deep look at what we do with our lives, what our purpose is and what we are doing to better tomorrow. The time is now. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye toward our obstacles, for the stakes couldn’t be higher.

As I work to improve education, curb violence, create economic empowerment mechanisms and expand my organization, I ask you to think hard and think long before you choose your new year’s resolutions; for your decision could save someone’s future – and your own.

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