|The Flight Into Egypt, Matthew 2:13|
- Though no children should be targeted, arrested and incarcerated the way we seem to be doing, Black children in New York city are 32 times more likely to be incarcerated than White children.
- Children of color, primarily African-American and Latino youth, make up 95% of the young people entering the city’s detention facilities; children are routinely charged with nonviolent offenses, including misdemeanors and technical offenses.
- Children who live in South Jamaica, East New York, Bedford Stuyvesant, Harlem, Tremont, University Heights, Brownsville, Eastchester, Morris Heights, Saint George, East Harlem, Soundview, Bedford Park, the South Bronx and Far Rockaway — live most profoundly under the perverse rule of the spirit of Herod. These communities have the highest rates of detention, the highest levels of poverty, poor housing and under-performing schools — and they desperately need Joseph to step forward with a dream and a plan.
Joseph went to great lengths to protect Jesus and Mary. When it became clear to him what Herod planned, Joseph did what he had to do to secure a refuge for his family against sure death. He was not put off by the questions surrounding Jesus’ paternity, despite the community gossip. Jesus was the child he claimed, and so he dreamed and acted.
There is a great deal of “good reform” happening in New York’s juvenile justice system. I’m glad about it. But, I’m not satisfied. System reform is necessary but certainly not enough because our children are endangered not just by broken child-serving systems (education, child welfare, access to health care, community and faith institutions) that routinely eat them alive and then dump them into the juvenile justice system. The world is broken and fallen — and a broken and fallen world chews up vulnerable people because it has no investment in a future worth considering.
The fate of children in a broken world seems sealed by the loss of “The Joseph” who dreams, acts and protects.
Where is Joseph?
- Some Josephs have fled the community without child and mother.
- Some Josephs are physically present, but overwhelmed, lonely, disconnected, under-employed, unemployed…and gratefully sleep a dreamless sleep or battle with nightmares.
- Some Josephs themselves are battered by oppression and caught up in the revolving doors of penal institutions, mental health centers, substance abuse clinics and homeless shelters.
- Still other Josephs are absorbed in self and caught up in the power of immediate gratification fed by a media machine the likes of which we have never seen before.
Yet, in spite of this — and because of the grace of God, there are still some incredible Josephs among us — men who stand tall in the community for their own children, and who stand for other children, who like Joseph’s Jesus, are not the children of their loins. It seems as if the winds of the world are always against them. They struggle to make their voices heard above the din of rhetoric, but even more so, they struggle to hold on to dreams in a world which still does not value a Black man’s dream.
You won’t find their stories or witnesses reported by the media, but they are there.
You won’t find them receiving big awards from community groups, but children are surviving who otherwise would not because of them.
You won’t find their names inscribed on buildings, but everyday they struggle against the Devil himself so that children can find safe passage from home to school and back again.
My prayer is that these Josephs will be supported, encouraged to dream, empowered to act on their dreams and that they will be strengthened to put their plans into action. My prayer is that God will raise a new generation of Community Josephs — men who will fearlessly claim and protect the children, the Jesus, in their neighborhoods.
We need Josephs who will not be swayed by community or media gossip about the worthiness of our own children. We need Josephs who will refute the spirit of Maury Povich with the declaration — “I may not be the father, but these are the children I claim and I will protect them.”
This world is not a friend to children, to poor people, to vulnerable people. It does what it does — chews them up and spits them out. But, the world has always done that and we should not be surprised.
Here’s what we also know: Joseph makes a difference.
Joseph makes the difference.
He stands between Herod on the warpath and the child who will grow up to bless us.
Herod slaughtered a generation of little boys. That’s what Herods do. We must work to seize the power of Herod. We must work to eliminate Herod’s power to systematically snuff out a generation of vulnerable children via broken, failing systems.
there is nothing more dangerous to the powers of the world if Joseph dreams…
If Joseph dreams, there will be no stopping him!