Kenneth. L. Hardin: I will always give my honest opinion

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 10, 2022

I’m surprised but appreciative when people share they read my words each week. I have the same humility within me that I’ve instilled in my three sons when people share either their appreciation or displeasure with my weekly public offerings. That surprise found me again recently when a local college administrator called asking if I would allow several students to interview me for a class project. I couldn’t imagine why they chose me, but I was game.

They were seeking my thoughts on the continued gun violence that permeates our city’s sense of peace and tranquility. I was asked to identify contributing factors, where the city has failed in addressing it, and positives that could be implemented to eliminate this scourge. I viewed this like a little leaguer lobbing slow pitch softballs to me on an undersized baseball field. I cautioned them that unlike other cowards I know, I wouldn’t offer watered down, sanitized views nor would I throw a rock and hide my hand. For those who’ve misplaced their urban slang dictionary or haven’t signed up for Ebonics 101, that means I would call by name those who’ve failed this city, those complicit in its continued degradation and those culture hustlers who do nothing but use the gun violence and other crime related issues to ensure longevity in leadership seats they don’t truly deserve to occupy.

I started out taking them on a personal journey going back to 1989, after I had returned to this city from honorably serving my country. I saw signs of early gang activity back then and tried relaying it to city officials but was told we didn’t have a gang problem. That clueless response 33 years ago is the same oblivious and insensible mindset that has people suffering and afraid over three decades later. I shared examples of my going to middle and high schools, on my own dime, talking to students about how to avoid engaging in actions that would send them to prison. I took actual prison hand, waist, and leg chains with me and demonstrated to kids showing what life would be like wearing this inexpensive jewelry. I escorted countless numbers of kids out to the local state prison to tour what could be their permanent address and to talk to some of their possible future hardcore neighbors. I was doing scared straight sessions before it became a TV sensation.

I admitted to my collegiate interviewers that I didn’t realize I was battling a much bigger opponent that still exists today. Apathy was and continues to be a monster, especially in the Black community. I shared with them the disappointing voting totals from the city’s largest precinct, the majority Black West Ward III, and supported it with data of my skinfolk’s aversion to participating in their constitutional right. What this leads to is continued representation by people who either don’t understand or don’t care about the gun violence because it’s not occurring outside of their front door with frequency or regularity. Black people continually vote against their interests and elect people who show they care nothing for their collective progress or well-being. Instead of only serving on the MLK Day planning committee, we need more color on decision making boards. We have money for parks but not for programs or resources for marginalized community upgrades. Over the last 25 years, we’ve had pointless community conversations between the residents and city officials every few years to identify where the problems are. The only thing that changes is the name of these ridiculous forums. We know what the issues are, we need implementation. But that would put career politicians out of a job.

I managed to take a breath long enough to say that we need to merge our city and county law enforcement agencies to ensure better and more strategic coverage. I added that until we stop babies from having babies, this shooter mentality will only worsen. If a parent is 13-15 years older than the child, what morals, ethics and values can they teach if they’re nonexistent in their own young parental lives? I laid the responsibility in part at the foot of the churches, who are so busy ministering to the perfect sinners sitting inside, they ignore those outside who need it much more. We have three colleges here but nothing geared toward young people. The directive many kids graduating from high school receive is once you walk across that stage, leave this city, and don’t look back. Our best and brightest young minds, who could make a difference here, are leaving skid marks getting away

The potential for this city to be great is here. We just need to get the people out of the way who are hindering us from achieving it.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.