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Garth Crooks on Black Parental Responsibility

February 12, 2011

A speech by Garth Crooks on black parental responsibility, in it’s entirety:


“When our parents came here from the Caribbean all those years ago they did not come empty handed. They came with hope, vision and desire. They came with little money but much pride. They stood for hard work, family life and more than anything wanted a quality of life for themselves and a bright future for their children. The church was our bedrock and life was far less complicated. The Dutch pot was an essential kitchen utensil and the pardner draw was an economic lifeline. A little primitive I hear the British intellectuals say but it wasn’t meant for them. It was these things that gave us a sense of pride, a sense of community, a sense of who we were and, in some ways still are, a sense of family.

My mother was a single parent with five kids to feed. I owe her everything. She got us all into the best comprehensive school in the area. Time and lack of academic ability didn’t permit her to check all our homework – she was too busy washing, cooking ,cleaning , ironing you know the usual things single mothers do. But what she also did was prepare us for school. Clean and tidy and ready to learn. We didn’t get all the grades she would have wished, but she brought us up to be polite and respectful.

You see those were the values our parents brought with them and the standards they gave us. The question is have we indelibly placed them into the hearts and minds of our children? Because if not, we’re doing them a great disservice. If we can’t teach our children what makes us think, or expect, that teachers can?

We know much is wrong with the education system today and those charged with the responsibility of effecting change must do so, but what is the role for us as parents. Surely our role must be the same as it always was – to be the guardians. To ensure our children are fit for purpose. Strong in body, mind and spirit. Ready for the challenges that face us as black people. Let’s not fudge it or indeed try to kid ourselves; we don’t own the means of production in this country but we do have complete ownership of our children.However there is an epidemic out there and it’s killing some of our children.

The Swann Report says, amongst other things, there’s no one single cause for black underachievement. Delicately put I think!

OFSTED claims that in many LEA’s there is a worrying ignorance of how to raise the attainment of black Caribbean boys. Worrying!

Do you think there could be a correlation between the education attainment of our black children and the growing dissipation of our culture and values?

We were not brought up to be rude to teachers or to disrespect authority. So why do so many of our children today try to get away with this? Is there equally a correlation between our children’s behaviour, in and out of the classroom, and the things we allow them to watch and the music they listen to?

Society is so eager to relegate them to the scrap heap when they do not conform. It’s a fact that when black youngsters fail to perform they’re often subjected to greater criticism due to stereotyping. It appears as if our kids are only given one chance.

Is it possible, is it the slightest bit conceivable, that we as a community could change the mindset of future generations and place the same emphasis on education as we do on our love for sport or music? Because if we can then our children will not just be performing at venues but running them.

I’m reminded of a bar mitzvah I once attended many years ago and I was one of many surprises that were provided for the young man’s celebration. I addressed the audience by saying how pleased I was for him and I wished him well. He thanked me, said how much he loved Tottenham Hotspur and how much he wanted to follow in my footsteps, but that his father had always told him that Jewish boys didn’t play for football clubs they owned them!

It was a great response. In just a few moments the young man had not only demonstrated his confidence, wit, and maturity but the sentiments of an entire community. If we could only return to the values our parents possessed and we once cherished would our children be better equipped to deal with the perils of a modern day Britain?

If each parent, each adult could reach one child then the process begins. But here’s the point. We have to practice what we preach. That means playing our part with our schools and with our teachers. That means being bold. Standing up for what we believe. Not being ashamed of those things that helped shape us.

We used to call it home training! It didn’t need to be any more sophisticated than that; we knew what it meant. Our black politicians should be saying it, our teachers should be teaching it and us parents should be preaching it.

This way I believe we reduce the risks of losing our children to a system that can be so unforgiving as we can’t afford to take risks with our children’s education.

On the subject of mums, on top of everything else you have to put up with, your community needs you more now than ever. Love and encourage your boys and above all trust your instincts; in my experience you’re nearly always right. The correlation between poor attendance at school, exclusion, and the prison service is too scary to contemplate. The cycle is only completed when they become absent fathers.

So reach for the stars – you deserve it and they are worth it. But if you don’t prepare you kids to succeed at school you are preparing them to fail. This conference is a testimony to the undeniable fact that more and more black parents are preparing their children to succeed. Reach for the stars. It’s also time we started pinpointing the best schools in the country with a view to getting our children in them. There are bursaries and scholarships waiting for those boys and girls who reach the academic standard.

As for those youngsters in our community who think they are gangsters and want to contaminate our children, our message must be clear and united. Grow up! You’re pathetic! We’re calling time on your activity. You can no longer use the estates as your safe havens. You won’t get away with the muggings, shootings and murders because you’re not gangsters, you’re not clever, you’re just kids and we know who you are. It’s zero tolerance.

If we can corporately convey this message consistently via our black politicians and leaders then I think the message will begin to bite and we might begin to reach the next generation. Diane it’s time you and your black colleagues got off the fence on this one. Party politics nearly cost you your child don’t let it cost me mine!!!

There can be no other way. We can’t have the lunatics taking over the asylum.

We must convey to the next generation that street culture was meant to be a fashion not a lifestyle; a bit of fun not a code of conduct. Our job as parents is not to dismiss it but to put it in its proper perspective.

If we don’t then street culture will become a deadly virus ripping indiscriminately through yet another generation and robbing millions of their potential. I believe we are their only hope. This is not about blame this is simply our calling. Change our children’s perspective on education and somehow make it the mantra for an entire generation. Education is everything and with knowledge comes responsibility.”

– Garth Crooks

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