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Fathers to sons: Conversation on social justice, race and crime

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 6:16 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As the conversation continues surrounding social justice across America, families are also thinking about their own neighborhoods.

In Charlotte, out of the 118 homicides last year, 25 were non-Black. This year, there have been 50. According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, only three are non-Black and 44 have been male.

Taking part in the conversation were Curtis Hayes Jr., who brought his 6-year-old son, Thomas Vison and Rashad Mackey -- both are also fathers. Joshua Stevenson, 17, also joined the conversation centered around the crime in Charlotte, social justice and race issues.

GEORGE FLOYD

QUESTION: “When you saw what happened to George Floyd and then we saw the verdict come out, guilty across the board. What are the conversations you had with your sons about not only what happened, but about the results of what happened?

“My son wants to be a police officer. So, you know, when he’s asking me, you know, why are you going out while you’re on TV? I’m out there protecting you, your sister, my mother,” said father Curtis Hayes Jr.

“In 2021, we shouldn’t still be going through all of these issues, you know, where you’re afraid to drive, where you’re afraid to walk because of the color of your skin, because you’re a Black or brown person, you know, and it’s, it’s ridiculous. We need to start having some more of us inside of the system because that’s the only way it’s going to change,” said father Thomas Vinson.

“The goal is just to make it home the next day. It’s not the whole court in the streets. It’s not, it’s not to go back and forth with the police or, you know, dispute your cases. Like let them do their job because that’s supposed to be their job. And then you have to deal with it afterwards. But the goal for me is what I tell my son, it’s just to make it home,” said father Rashad Mackey.

‘THE TALK’

The fathers also addressed having “The Talk” with their children after interactions with law enforcement.

“I don’t have the same privilege as others when they encounter the police and they’re able to stand up for their self and they’re able to be outraged and, and speak their mind and be angry,” Mackey said. “And to us, anything that we do is a hostile nature. You know, we’ve seen people that, uh, was allowed to open carry Mr. Crawford and was in, was shot in his car in front of his wife and his kid. So, you know, it’s a whole different thing like 10-and-two, when you are encountered by the police officer.

“It’s scary that we have to have these conversations with our kids and, and, uh, you know, just young men in our community when you’re eight, when you’re 10,” he continued, “Because like I said, we’ve already seen our kids being mistreated by the police as well. It’s not just us as men, women, we’ve seen kids being mistreated and being victims of police brutality. The goal is just to make it home the next day. It’s not to hold court in the streets. It’s not, it’s not to go back and forth with the police or, you know, dispute your cases. Like let them do their job because that’s supposed to be their job. And then you have to deal with it afterwards. But the goal for me is what I tell my son, is just to make it home.”

“My question is, is why do we have to have that talk? I’m not having that with my son. I’m just being honest with you. I teach him to know the law, understand it,” said Hayes Jr. ”Because if they approach you, it’s not 10-and-two, it’s the legal question of, ‘Why did I get pulled over?’ So I think we got to really cut that notion of ‘The Talk,’ we have to break certain generational cycles of ‘The Talk’ has been going on for years.”

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A FATHER

“What it means to me is, is everything. Uh, he carries my name. He carries my last name. So I have to build a legacy now that I can pass down to him that he can make his own,” Hayes Jr. said.

“Being a mentor, you know, teaching them how to grow up and stay away from, you know, certain things. Can teach them to be positive, individuals, love themselves, instill values in them...I love it,” said Mackey.

“It changed my life,” Vinson added.

“It changes your life if you’re not on the right track. And even if you are on the right track, it gives, it gives you a certain, it’s just a different light,” Mackey said. “You know, we all talk about, you know, motherhood and how you know your mother is, but we leave out the fathers. But the father’s love is definitely needed.”

CHARLOTTE AND HOMICIDES, WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?

“A lot of them have PTSD,” said Vinson.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Hayes Jr. responded.

“I would say that because they’ve lost, like between last year and this year, my son has lost seven friends. So that’s something that’s on their mental that they have to, you know, live with,” Vinson added.

Hayes Jr. says the city of Charlotte should put the youth first.

“Stop spending money on things they’re trying to pass as glimmering gold,” he said. “When you have everything that is going on from, from the pandemic to job loss, to, to people, not even being able to afford to live in decent places, and then you also take every resource that you could possibly give away from them, you’re going to have crime problems.”

“They’re leaving the kids out because yeah, it’s about the older man. You know, we have to save our self, but if we really want to fix what’s wrong in our community, as Black people, we need, we need for the city of Charlotte to invest in the youth,” added Mackey. “That’s, what’s going to change the crime rate because these kids, they are only growing up and they keep growing up in the same underprivileged environments that we grew up in. How do you, how can you expect change? We have to invest in our community as well, but this is a joint venture.”

“So again, if you have this kid whose mother can’t even afford to live in the city of Charlotte, that she works every day to support and make look good and work. And he is asked to survive, you have to take care of his siblings...you leave them no choice, but to go and survive. It’s the survival of the fittest. And it is literally that. And the thing is, is the city of Charlotte is going to have to understand it, get people who genuinely want to fix it, not just throw a Band-Aid on it and say, ‘Oh, that’s the Black community. Throw another Band-Aid on it and let’s keep pushing.’ No, they need to really either find or create solutions to combat what is going on in Charlotte,” Hayes Jr. said.

Last year, Vinson lost his son to gun violence.

“We have so many guns now in our community. When I was growing up back in the 90s, we couldn’t get a hold of guns like that,” Vinson said.

Earlier this year, 17-year-old high school student Joshua Stevenson lost his 16-year-old basketball teammate.

“It’s bad when you just wake up and you get that call and you just realize you ain’t going to be able to talk or just see your friend anymore. The last time you’re going to see your friend is when it putting them in the ground. I don’t want to see that. I can’t keep dealing with that. And I don’t want to keep having to put balloons up or see my friend on a t-shirt. I don’t want to keep seeing that,” Stevenson said. “I play basketball a lot, that’s my escape. Just have that brief moment away from the reality that your friends are gone, family, your mom’s struggling, you got all that stuff that you got to deal with. You can ask a lot of people on this side of Charlotte. A lot of athletes, sure they loved the game of basketball, but the main goal is to get your family out of this out, get them out. That is that one out of a hundred. You didn’t 1 percent you gotta go. You gotta get out. That’s the goal.”

“So, and again, that “Get out,” is that everyone in your age group, the mentality for everyone?”

“It is the mentality, whether it’s shooting a basketball or gun,” Stevenson responded.

“It is frustrating. Even at 32 to hear this young man say he can’t even, he got to jog so he can have a mental releasing point. That is frustrating because these other young men can go, that got boats and they can go to all these programs and everything. And our young men got to jog to get to a sport that only releases the mental or the not going out and making a mistake,” Hayes Jr. said.

“I want to commend you young man, that you give yourself an outlet because you could have went the other way,” Vinson added.

“If we really want to fix what’s wrong in our community, as Black people, we need, we need for the city of Charlotte to invest in the youth. That’s, what’s going to change the crime rate because these kids, they are only growing up and they keep growing up in the same underprivileged environments that we grew up in. How do you, how can you expect change? We have to invest in our community as well, but this is a joint venture,” Mackey said. “Five to 10 minutes seconds. Your whole life, throw it away for what you know, when you grow up, you’re not gonna feel the same way about the things that you was ready to take somebody’s life. Well, when you were 17, 18, 19, 20, but you’re going to be in a cell 50 years and then regretting what you did that one night and it took you 10 seconds to throw away the rest of your life.”

“I feel if we push out more love. Start telling each other we love them. We see the young boys, ‘love you lil’ homie, love you lil’ queen. It goes a lot because they don’t hear love a lot,” Vinson said.

“How old are you, man? Seventeen, you have so much ahead of you and the city of Charlotte has it, is it don’t get me wrong. It is a beautiful city, but young man, the doubt, the loss of your friend, the trauma of your father not being there, the time that your mother is not able to put in, be strong and know that all of that can change just off your decision, make the right one, understand you’re talented, understand things is going to happen. Understand roller coasters is going to come. Ride that roller coaster just like you at Carowinds, don’t get hit by it. Because life is a roller coaster, man. It’s the same issues you face or 17, the same issues you won’t face it. 32. You gotta be strong,” said Hayes Jr.

Note: The second part of this series will air Sunday, June 20.

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