Oct 25, 201211:11 AMEditor's Blog
Bill Cosby's Message to Parents: Come on, People
Yesterday, Bill Cosby was in town speaking to the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry (TMM) at the Jazz Hall of Fame. His speech was billed as "Fatherhood...Mobilizing for Change."
Dr. Cosby was entertaining and funny -- but his message was serious. It began and ended with one phrase aimed at parents: "The Revolution is in the Home."
Many of us are familiar with Cosby's admonition to Black people, especially Black fathers, to step up and take individual responsibility for their children. His critics say that his comments are overly simplistic, laying out the problems without offering real solutions.
Cosby doesn't buy that argument. He believes that people can make a decision to get drugs out of their neighborhoods, to get kids into school, to encourage them to go to college, to discourage teen pregnancy and other risky behaviors. In his remarks yesterday, Cosby said that he didn't want to hear that the problems are too deep and too complicated. "I'm going to explain to children that they have to get educated," he said. "Get these 13-year-old, these 9-year-old boys and say, 'You will not think of becoming a father because you have not earned it. You gotta have a job. That's your child and you're not a man if you don't claim that child.'"
He said that communities need to speak up and to keep speaking up. "The Black Muslims said to the drug dealers, 'Brother, you can't sell that here!' so the drug dealers came over where the Christians live and we let them."
While churches have a role to play in people's lives, Cosby reminded the audience that "you can talk all day about God and about Jesus coming again. We can have programs all day and all night," he said, "but programs have a sunset. The kids gotta go home. The revolution is in the home."
Cosby said that parents, even single parents, need to "stay on it." Parents need to model values in the home. They need to tell their children to study, stay away from risky behaviors, make goals for the future and be responsible for themselves. And it isn't enough to say it once; parents need to model those behaviors and to keep saying it.
There were a couple of very specific challenges to the Tulsa community in his speech. The first was that he doesn't want to hear that someone's child is shot in a neighborhood and the neighbors refuse to speak up. "I don't want to come back here and hear about our children shooting each other," he said. "If I can't say who shot who just because they live in my neighborhood, then what's the value in that? What's the value of the child's life?"
Cosby also talked about the John Hope Franklin Memorial. He said that some Tulsans were telling him that they couldn't finish the memorial because of lack of funding. "The Jews came up with the money," he said. "They didn't point to someone else to do it. Black people need to step up and finish the Franklin Memorial. Our children need to see that we value ourselves. I don't want to come back here without the monument."
Throughout his talk, Cosby reminded the audience that everyone needed to take action. It wasn't enough for him to motivate the crowd. It wasn't enough for people to hear his message and agree. More than once, he said that he didn't want to return to Tulsa to see the same problems that were there the day he left.
Cosby's message to the ministers in the room was to "tighten up" their message. To encourage the kind of values that lift people up and to keep after their congregations to transform their communities. He said that all of us -- parents, ministers, city leaders -- need to "stay on it" with our children. "Don't let up!"