Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
I’ve been mentoring youth since 2003 through the Yunion, a non profit organization that serves youth and families in Metro Detroit. In 2008 I created the Cave of Adullam male character strengthening system to help black boys and young men overcome unresolved anger, ADHD symptoms, the father wound and fear. I was very encouraged when President Obama announced the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative to help boys and young men of color, and that the Skillman Foundation and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement was to lead it here in Detroit. Shortly after the announcement, the LORD told me to study in context, the biblical phrase “My Brothers Keeper”. Within minutes, He not only gave me insight into why we are still in dire need of such an initiative and why we must purge the spirit of Cain amongst us, but more importantly, how we who serve and empower black boys and young men can truly one day become our brother’s keeper.
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground (farmer). – Genesis 4:2
Cain and Abel had two different skill sets but both worked in the same “field”. Sounds familiar? How often do we, the shepherds and the farmers in the “field” of black male achievement, discount the value of each other’s skill-set because our methodology is different? Are we all not working towards the same goal? For the work in the field to achieve the results that both the shepherd and the farmer desire, it’s imperative that they work together. For without the crops, the shepherd’s flock starves to death and without the flock, the farmer’s crops are wasted. For this relationship to be productive and not be a coerced collaboration, both the shepherd and the farmer must equally sacrifice their best.
“Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord, but Abel presented the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.– Genesis 4:3-5
Sounds familiar? The LORD’s Philanthropic Hand accepted Abel’s Black Boys Mentoring (ABBM) proposal, but denied Cain’s Black Boys Development proposal. This made Cain and his staff burn with indignation because they believed their proposal and work was just as good as ABBM. Cain’s Black Boys Development eventually resented the work of ABBM, and as a result, the two organizations could never collaborate in the “field” of black male achievement.
“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?” – Genesis 4:6
We should always ask ourselves these two questions whenever we feel dejected when our work and effort gets rejected. None of us are void of pride, and if not subdued, pride will eventually lead us and our organizations into destruction. The LORD’s Philanthropic Hand gave Cain’s Black Boys Development (CBBD) constructive feedback to why their proposal was denied, and offered CBBD another opportunity to submit another proposal. But Cain refused to comply. As a result, Cain had to layoff his staff, and because the LORD’s Philanthropic Hand was the only grantor in the region, he relocated CBBD to another country. Due to Cain’s absence, all the crops in the field died, and Abel’s flock eventually went astray searching for food but were devoured by the wolves.
The LORD said to Cain, “You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at your door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master. – Genesis 4:7
An intelligible definition for sin is knowing the right thing to do, but not doing it (James 4:17 NASB). Again, none of us are void of pride, however sin arises when we allow pride to fester, instead of purging our prideful ways. I will never forget the words of Alfonso Wyatt regarding the existence of pride and egos in the field of black male achievement. He said, “The new drug and it’s legal, is called fame. And sadly too many of our brothers and sisters have overdosed.” It’s without question that we are in dire need of farmers in the field of black male achievement, however we do not need “famers”. Famers are people who appear to have good intentions but they labor in the field for their own benefit, sacrificing the blood, sweat and tears of others.
One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. Afterward the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4:8-9
Although Cain’s response was cynical, anyone that has studied God’s precepts know that He not only expects us to be our brother’s keeper, but also exude brotherly love when doing so. The word “keeper” in this verse means “to guard”, a person who watches and protects someone or something. Here lies what I believe is the main reason why after millions have been spent cultivating the field, we still are in need of initiatives like MBK. We the shepherds and the farmers are not each other’s keeper. When the wolf (the prison industrial complex) comes to snatch a lamb (black boy) from the flock (the community), and a storm (lead water) comes to damage the crops, the shepherd and the farmer cannot proactively guard each other’s work in the field, because they are too busy fighting against each other for props and position in the field.
Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall… Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. – Proverbs 4:23
Before we, the leaders in the field of black male achievement can teach boys and young men of color how to be their brother’s keeper, we must become keepers of each other. First we must begin the process of purging the pride and the negative emotions within our hearts that hinders our work in the field. This process begins with humility, for humility is the “Kryptonite” to pride. Then when humility has purged the pride, we will be able to repent and turn from our ways the hinders the LORD’s Philanthropic Hand from healing our land. During this perpetual process, we must vigilantly guard our hearts with all diligence to keep pride and the emotions associated with it subdued, so that our work will advance. Lastly, this process of internal healing must be done as a cohort, so that the shepherd and farmer will see that although their roles are different in the field, they deeply desire the same result.
We, the shepherds and the farmers (i.e. the gifted brothers and sisters who sacrificially serve in the field of black male achievement), have another great opportunity to empower the boys and young men of color in our nation. I will continue to pray that all who will be engaged in the My Brother’s Keeper initiative will not only seriously contemplate the context of Cain’s cynical response “Am I my brothers keeper”, but also take the necessary introspective steps to avoid making the mistakes that he did.
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