Transitional program calls for unity in black community

Filmmaker Shareef Nasir speaks during the ‘State of Black Males in a Violent Society’ meeting Thursday.
Filmmaker Shareef Nasir speaks during the ‘State of Black Males in a Violent Society’ meeting Thursday. Special to the Sun Herald

An organization of South Mississippi residents and professionals is constructively addressing the shooting incidents that have plagued local and national communities this year. In a spirit of self-sufficiency and self-determination, the group is calling for the development of a proactive, organized agenda.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Transitional Program formally introduced themselves at the “State of Black Males in a Violent Society” meeting and seminar, held Thursday at the Isaiah Fredricks Community Center in Gulfport. Organized originally to assist ex-offenders re-enter society, the MGCTP is furthering its steps to impact the community.

“I’ve seen a lot come home from institutions and they really were having a hard time adjusting back into society,” said founder Shaheed Ali, who has worked professionally as a bail bondsman for the past 17 years. “We want to put together various programs, a series of seminars and events, to give them job skills and give them motivation and confidence that will curb the recidivism rate and help them become constructive citizens.”

David Pittman “Dawud” Salaam, MGCTP’s appointed director, has envisioned taking stronger measures to reverse the issues that have negatively affected a high proportion of young black males.

“We’re not just about talk but about actually making positive changes through constant action in the black community,” said Salaam. “We would like to help African Americans make the transition necessary to achieve success in this society.”

Salaam reflected on his own former incarceration

“I know firsthand what it’s like to exit the system and not have the support needed to move forward in society,” he said. “Had it not been for my faith and the few people who did help me, I would probably have reverted and be back in one of those penitentiary bunks.”

Keynote speaker and filmmaker Shareef Nasir spoke on the need for a structured philosophy and program, based strongly on self-reliance and self-education, to turn around the plight of the black male.

“We need to construct an entirely different human being,” Nasir said in regards to developing and nurturing the young black male. “The detriment for us the last 80 years is that we haven’t controlled our own education. We are the only living thing on the Earth that would take the responsibility of educating our own children to the outside and then get upset when they don’t know the things needed to make them better.”

Nasir, based in Oakland, California, was producer and director of the documentary “The Evolution of the Nation of Islam,” which aired on PBS in 2015. He is currently working on another documentary on the life of Malcolm X.

“My intention is to try and give an understanding as to how black males have gotten into a position of being on the receiving end of violence and how we have initiated violence among ourselves,” Nasir said. “We want to empower the young males as potential solvers of their own problems as opposed to worrying about external forces.”

Instead of getting hung up on black-on-black crime versus white-on-black crime or black-on-white crime, Tabari Daniels, vice president of WZJD 94.5, said,“Crime is crime and we’ve got to fix it. We need to manage our anger and teach our kids to use the right tools. My weapons are not my fist or my mouth but my eyes and ears.”

Goals set by MGCTP include creating more extensive programs for ex-offenders, establishing mentoring programs, assisting students in preparing for their ACT tests, conducting classes on the basics of economics and finance and developing deep connections with influential people in various communities.

Attendee Sanaa Stough, 13, was intrigued by the proposed concept of self-established schools, among other things discussed.

“It makes me want to work harder so that I can be able to represent our community in things like the government and politics,” Stough said.