Think about the future when you vote

Published 12:08 am Friday, July 29, 2011

I moved back to Natchez from Los Angeles almost two years ago to the day. I was totally unprepared for what I’ve seen since then.

This sweet little town has taken a serious turn for the worse. One of the very first things that I noticed was the increase in the crime rate and the lack of support for the children. There was one moment that really stood out to me. One late summer night I passed by a nightclub on St. Catherine Street.

The parking lot was jam packed with young teenagers. I started paying close attention to the current mindset of the youth.

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I was searching for answers as to how things had spiraled so out of control from the days I spent here as a child. I immediately started blaming the parents. Being raised without a father in my life made some of the excuses I’d heard acceptable. Then I saw the bigger picture. That’s when I started blaming the spiritual leaders and the local politicians.

I can remember when the church used to be a place of security and refuge. A place where children were taught the importance of morals and principles. Somewhere along the way the children were forgotten. The churches are getting bigger while the congregations are getting smaller. The church and its spiritual leaders are the foundation and the thread that are supposed to keep our communities together.

Recently I visited the youth center. I talked to a few guys there and heard stories of how things used to be. It saddened me to see what had become of what was once a thriving safe haven for our youth. Natchez is too small of a town for us not to be able to come together as one for a common interest, the children.

Time and time again I’ve heard adults complain about how bad the kids are today. Well what can you expect when there’s nothing to offer them?

Unemployment is a major problem. We need recreation programs. Just off the top of my head, how hard would it be for all concerned to come together with a solution to replace the water park with a swimming pool?

I grew up in the deadly gang-infested streets of South Central Los Angeles. I had all the wrong role models. I spent most of my young adult life in prison. I was once a ruthless criminal. It almost cost me my life. I was shot five times at point blank range. Twice in the head and three times in the shoulder.

My best friend died sitting next to me with a bullet to his head. That tragic event took place in 1996 right here in Natchez.

My life was spared so that I could tell my story and hope to make a difference. So I’m speaking purely from experience when I tell you these kids here aren’t that bad at all. They just need someone to care about them.

I’ve done all I can to make a difference here. I’ve shared my testimony with anyone that will listen. I’ve spoken at the teen summit at Alcorn School of Nursing and ACCS. We need to invest in our children. We need to start holding our spiritual and political leaders accountable.

Being an elected official should be about the passion to make a difference in your community, not just a paycheck.

Don’t just vote for a candidate because of name recognition. Think back to the last elections. Think about the promises that were made. Think about who kept their promise. If that official didn’t live up to his or her word then you might want to reconsider voting for that person again.

Sometimes change is good. Bettering your community should be their main objective. Make sure that the children are at the top of their to-do list.

Keep in mind that today’s problem child could be tomorrow’s criminal.

The choices are yours. You can keep ignoring the elephant in the room or prepare to build bigger jails.

Gregory Marshall is a Natchez resident.