by Taki S. Raton
On Sunday, January 2, upwards of 100 African American youth reportedly converged on Mayfair Mall. Quoting Doris Hajewski and Don Walker in their January 5 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Article, mall manager Steve Smith said that around 3:30 p.m., the leisurely somber Sunday afternoon mood in the mall began to change:
“There were large members of teens getting off the buses and arriving by car. All of a sudden, we had large amounts of teens in the center.”
Smith adds that unlike other young people who come to the mall to shop and have fun, these teens “were much more disrespectful, sitting up on tables in the food court, running up and down the escalators, being a problem for security officers. They came with the intent of disrupting business that day.”
The Hajewski-Walker writing discloses that security guards tried to stop the behavior, but such attempts were resisted by the teens who openly challenged the guards. When the guards told groupings of the teens to leave, they returned through other entrances according to Smith.
The guards decided to close the mall to prevent the “unruly teens” from repeatedly re-entering. The center was swept from one end to the other to get the disruptors along with the regular Sunday shoppers out of the facility.
There was no damage to the mall and no one was injured. The Boston store however had some damage when the teens ransacked the store knocking mannequins and merchandise to the floor. Wauwatosa police also confirmed that a gunshot was fired outside the mall and an attempted robbery was reported at a nearby bus stop.
In his Monday, January 3 article, Eugene Kane quoted a few of his contacts who were witnesses to this unfortunate, regretful and shameful show of behavior of our children. Citing a “Clarene” post:
“My girlfriend was there and said that our teens, 12 to 15 years old, were all over the place acting wild! It was out of control.”
“Melody” described the incident as “unsettling” when she and her son arrived at the mall around 5:30 p.m. After asking a few people what was going on, this mother, who is African American, was told that young people were causing problems in the mall and that she saw teens “running around in the parking lot.”
According to reports, nine juveniles, all from Milwaukee, were arrested. A 17-year-old girl was referred to the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office on a retail theft charge.
Both Mayfair and Bayshore malls–as a result of this occurrence–have shored up their respective curfews requiring teens under 18 to be escorted by a parent or adult after 3 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
The incident was described as a “flash mob” – a group of people who, using email, text, cell, or other social media communication, to suddenly assemble in a public place to perform a prearranged act and then disperse.
“In a world of instant communication via texting and social networks such a texting and social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, unruly teens are turning into a bigger problem, not just at Mayfair, but for retailers nationwide,” writes Hajewski in her opening comments.
“We’re seeing it at malls across the country,” said Malachy Kavanagh in the Sentinel writing. Kavanagh is the senior vice president of communications at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).
Last February, reveals Hajewski for example, around 150 teenagers in Philadelphia stormed out of the downtown gallery shopping mall and rampaged through Macy’s department store. The Philly teens were also African American.
The Milwaukee incident understandably energized a citywide discussion of youth and race within both African American and mainstream media outlets. Comparisons were made between Mayfair and the former Northridge Mall, 76th and West Brown Deer Road, which operated from 1970 until it closed in 2003.
Quoting a Chicago retail real estate consultant who regularly works in the Milwaukee area, the Sentinel article advances that, “unruly kids” were also the problem at Northridge “years ago” which fated the closing of that center.
Reactions outside of our community noting the January 7 Sentinel “Your Opinion” section, a Wauwatosa resident states that “If the mall does not act decisively and swiftly with a very public display of ‘look what we’re doing,’ it will become a victim of the very perceptions that the incident created – a mall full of groups of wild teenagers wreaking havoc, despite any reasonable and truthful assertions to the contrary.”
The opinion adds that the necessary curfew is a result of “fewer than 100 kids out of 9 million shoppers annually affecting many thousands for the foreseeable future. Losers all around.”
A Bayside resident was very upset over a previous writing on the January 2 flash mob which, according to her, “downplayed” the seriousness of the problems that these teens created:
“…Stores overrun. Products toppled to the ground. People (black and white) pushed around and a gunshot fired in the parking lot…When does it stop being a ‘blown out of proportion story? When someone is seriously injured, maybe shot? When you start losing anchor stores? Remember Northridge?”
A local attorney in another recent Sentinel article by Bill Glauber was quoted with the view that “these kids are not being well-supervised by their parents. There was a breakdown in personal responsibility and parental responsibility. Too often, shopping malls have been asked to be baby sitters. Shopping malls are not baby sitters – they’re in the business to sell things.”
The aforementioned sentiments of the Wauwatosa and Bayside residents and the attorney, all presumably white, is the bridge to bring us back to Cavalier Johnson’s attempt to bring together Milwaukee community leaders to address this concern.
He says that he is “calling on all local leaders and persons of influence throughout the Milwaukee region from youth, parents, community leaders, elected officials, law enforcement, education, young professionals, the business community…” and other folk to join him in organizing a “community summit” to “address these societal issues that we face together and impact us all.”
The mentioning of Johnson is not to ridicule or critique his recommendation. His request is only being noted as a point of chronological reference here at the sunrise of 2011.
But we do this all the time. The Black community responds only after something bad has happened and only then if white people are either involved or otherwise affected. This writer, others in the Milwaukee area and a significant number of African American observers as near as Chicago and around the country have been sounding the bullhorn about our children, their behavior and their school performance now since the 90’s.
I just recently wrote an article for the MCJ published December 30 titled “Message to the Black Man: Your race is dying!” Our communities, our families, our children, indeed our race has been in serious trouble ever since the plantation and Black people appear to be clueless as to how to solve our own problems, particularly the socialization, behavior and academic performance of our own children. We continually seek the solutions and favor of others in the mainstream who are far removed from a Black reality.
If we do not take care of our own, what do you expect for white people and America’s mainstream to do to and for us?
Contrary to a gross popular belief, African Americans do not live in two societies – one Black and one White. Black people live in a multicultural male dominated society and a multi-ethnic global arena where each and every group is responsible for its own development, growth, success and prosperity. It is not the responsibility of another group to take care of us, raise our children, teach our children or attend to their behavior or be responsible for them in public corridors.
We have dropped the ball – Black parents, Black community, Black churches, Black schooling, Black leadership, Black stakeholders. The behavior of our children at Mayfair Mall was and is our responsibility as a Black people, as a Black community. And now we want to bring people together to talk about this “issue” – and do what? What do we control?
Thanks to integration, we gave up all of our control, power and influence to others. We have left our children, therefore, with nothing of their glorious prideful own to grow into. Mayfair resultantly could very well be predictable.
Where was this call for a summit when, five years ago, then Milwaukee Police Chief Nannette Hagerty said in a 2006 Journal Sentinel article of the Black community that “We have a societal crisis”? That summer, 14,000 people were arrested, 200 guns were confiscated along with 37 pounds of cocaine. She would add that this problem is “bigger than law enforcement. I think we have a societal crisis.” Where was the call for a Black summit at this time?
In that same year, Chicago based Black Star Project founder Phillip Jackson, who I often quote, said in the April 4, 2006 Chicago Courier newspaper that “our children are fighting a war amongst themselves and against their communities.” He would add that:
“Many Black children are out of control. They swear, fight, vandalize, challenge authority and exhibit overly aggressive behaviors. They have a reckless disregard for virtually any social norms, rules or grace.”
Now we knew this about our children’s behavior five years ago if not much earlier. I quoted Jackson many times in this regard. There was no call for a summit then. So why would any Black person be surprised today in 2011 about our children’s behavior at Mayfair?
On September 10, 2010, this writer also wrote a piece entitled “Educational Markers Reflect Black Community decline,” noting the November Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education. The study reveals that the overall 2007/2008 graduation rate for Black males in the U.S. was only 48 percent and only 25 percent in New York. We additionally reported in a recent writing that in Milwaukee, there is a 52% suspension rate amongst Black females in middle school. Yet, no call for a summit.
So right now, we are hearing phrasing like “kill him” (“Message to the Black Man”) or “self annihilation” and self imposed genocide; that we are now perhaps victims of our own annihilation. Additional to whatever the response or backlash may be from outside forces to include increased and stepped up incarceration rates for our young people, due to our own apparent and clear abandonment of the Black community and of our children, the stats indicate a very dismal future.
The low graduation rates, the reported 72% Black out-of-wedlock births, the ever increasing numbers of Black-on-Black homicides and the poor social and academic performance of our babies both pre-school going into and coming out of the lower elementary grades, just to mention a few indicators – without the proper, effective cultural based intervention – to those of us who continually and consistently have been following these stats – we may be witnessing a self-perpetuating cycle with our young people that could very well be too late to reverse – summit or no summit.
And the other interesting item about these so-called meetings – the very same people that are often called to the table to “discuss” and analyze community issues are often exemplars of the very same elements that abandoned the Black community in the first place and allowed these issues with our children to prevail.
Racism and White Supremacy has very little effect on a child and on a community that is culturally insulated and protected. Remove the culture, abandon the lessons of history and ignore the examples of all other successful economically functioning groups in America and in the world who place culture, family, ethnicity, their unity, racial price, and their commitment to self-determination and self reliance first, foremost and always and you will have that group’s children running through a Mayfair Mall as a clear reflection of who and what we are, or are not, as a race.
And I have to put in this plug for all Black, in Black, for Black and about Black African Centered schooling. We do not have these problems with our children. You will not see our children running through no Mayfair Malls. The first thing we teach our children through our own esteemed cultural examples is proper behavior, self respect and respect for others. Character, demeanor, dignity and grace are milestones of our children’s social profile in these well-planned and carefully structured all-Black academies.
And sometimes the most difficult thing to understand is that as in all other successful and economically prosperous cultures, the very same thing that brings out the best in our children – the total control and inculcation of race pride and cultural modeling in their/our children, is the very same thing that mainstream dependent and integrationist Black people are against. We still feel and argue that other people can educate and socialize Black children better then Black people, which is a clear example of self-hate and conditioned inferiority if there ever was one.
Black children do not grow into white people and our children are trying to tell us this. Black children should grow into the best and Highest Order of themselves first in order to be properly prepared and fashioned for successful and respectful contributory membership in an ever competitive national pluralistic environ and ethnic anchored global arena.
If you think Mayfair Mall was “unsettling”, given our children’s social and academic stats from pre-school through 12th grade, you haven’t seen anything yet. And the authorities, the “powers-that-be,” and the regular broader societal membership are ready for whatever is coming down the pipe from our children and from our communities – jails, prisons, response-force. What will be our duty and obligation to our own and for our own on this day beside “talk”?
We as a people are still mentally and psychologically damaged by the ignorance of self as imposed and forced upon us by our enslaved conditioning. We still put other people first before our own. We cannot seem to see ourselves outside of “their” box.
Waliyyuddin A. Sabir in his title “Reconstruction of the African American Male” says that due to such ignorance, “we have all been reduced to our lowest terms, and because we have not been properly educated (or re-educated), we now stand on the brink of total self annihilation.”
Our children’s actions on that Sunday, January 2, is a clear reminder of what this “lowest term” looks like. We may definitely be headed towards this direction of an in-group imposed self-annihilation. And there will be no one but us to save us.
Taki S. Raton is a school consultant in the African Centered instructional model. Former founder and principle of Blyden Delany Academy in Milwaukee, he is a writer and lecturer on the national stage detailing African World historiography, urban community concerns with emphasis on education, the social development of Black youth and African American male issues.
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