Does it really take a village to raise our black children?

There was a time when the black community in Milwaukee was a much safer, family friendly place. I grew up just south of Capitol Drive, a few blocks from Rufus King High. I remember when we could leave our front door open at night; we weren't concerned with burglars.

I remember sitting in my friend's backyard listening to her uncle share stories about "how good we had it" compared to his life in Mississippi. Even though his generation saw deep oppression, he always had a smile on his face.

I also remember when your friend's mom could "yell at you" because the neighborhood moms had an unwritten pact: "If you ever see mine doing something he's not supposed to be, take care of him and then send him home to me."

Discipline wasn't considered a blow to self esteem; it was simply preparation for life. There was definitely a greater sense of "village" and "we're all in this together." Bad behavior wasn't tolerated, accountability was the norm, and most of us were taught that education and following the rules was the key to success.

Yes indeed, those were the days.

From time to time, I take a trip down memory lane and drive past the house I grew up in. It's fared pretty well, and for the most part, the neighborhood looks about the same. But I've talked to some of the old neighbors and they say gone are the days when you could tell someone else's child to straighten up and fly right. Most of the corner stores are closed because of robberies.

Children still play tag, jump rope and hide and seek but you hear a lot more swear words and the music is well, what it is. The sense of village is gone because the mentality has changed from "each one, teach one" to every man for himself.

What prompted me to write about "the village" is a commentary I read about the important role the extended family used to play in the black community. Specifically, if having positive familial input would have made a difference for the black athletes who, in many cas…


Like every medium, parents must monitor kids' iPods, too

I was out with some co-workers the other day, and we started talking about Christmas shopping and what gifts people planned to buy. Most of the conversations revolved around shopping for children.

I don't have any children of my own but I do have several nephews and nieces to buy for. At any rate, one of the mothers asked if we thought it was OK to buy an iPod for a 10-year-old. Several people chimed in their opinions and then I said, "Well, I think it's OK if you plan on screening the music or at least explaining to them what's off limits for downloading. Otherwise you don't know what kind of crap they might be listening to."

Each of them looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. They seemed dumbfounded by the very thought of invading their child's privacy.

"Well," she said, taking a sip of water. "I don't think he would download anything inappropriate. He knows my rules," she added with shaky confidence.

"OK." I said.

The National Institute on Media and the Family presented its 12th annual video game report card a few weeks ago. I bring this up only because institute officials cited "growing complacency" among game retailers, parents and the gaming industry on video game ratings. Complacency in the form of "just buying what the kid wants" instead of doing a little research.

At Christmas, it's easy to dismiss good judgment to keep your kid happy, but reality suggests that kids, no matter how well-behaved, still want to be like their peers. They want to play the same games, watch the same movies, wear the same clothes and listen to the same music. And unfortunately, more often, the music, movies and TV shows, aren't suitable for young eyes and ears.

A few days later, the same co-worker stopped by my desk. She asked her son what kind of music he would download if he had an iPod. He started naming artists like Soulja Boy, Mims and some other names I can't even remember. The first two are hip-hop artists who excel at usi…