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We Kids Once Played & Worked Safely and Happily in Our Neighborhoods

As I drive through the city of Jackson on a daily basis I become bothered by the lack of opportunity for our children and youth. Our children are left to defend themselves on a daily basis. They aren't safe like my friends and I were during our youth.

The city of Jackson seems to be depressed while the surrounding cities are full of hope and economic opportunity. I am not sure who the blame lies with, but I can tell you that children and families are suffering in the city because of it. They are suffering because of the lack of opportunity.

This lack wasn’t always here. When I was a youth growing up in the city of Jackson, I felt like I had the best childhood possible. My family stayed in a small but nice three-bedroom house with two bathrooms and a decent back yard. My brother and I had to share a room, but that was fine. I had friends that played together in the streets and in one another's back yards.

I remember the days of tackle football and basketball, but also of riding bikes from one neighborhood to the next. Our community wasn't all that close, but we knew each other and I didn't have a fear of anything except the house with the loose dogs. I learned to appreciate life and all that came with it.

I was able to get my first real job at 16 years of age and have had a job ever since. I could go to the local swimming pool, city park, movie theater of skating rink to enjoy what the community offered.

Our children are not growing up with these same benefits and I cry just thinking about it. The days of playing in the streets may be gone because of the heavier traffic, video games and because of the lack of trust from neighbors.

Jackson is in a different place than it used to be, but that comes along with the territory in all older cities. Crime is nothing new, but when you take all the hope and opportunity out of a community, we get heavier concentrations of crime as we see today.

When I was young, my friends and I did a few mischievous things that I won’t mention, but we never thought about robbing stores to get money or feeling obligated to sale drugs because there were not jobs in the communities in which we lived.

I along with my friends couldn‘t wait until we were 16 so that we could work and make our own money. It wasn't much, but we were happy to have a job. Such stories are not so easy to come by in Jackson any longer. Many of the adults are having to take those jobs I once had, and many of the youth are left with nothing but deterioration and despair.

We need to change this scenario. We need to change how the people in this state see Jackson. We need to invest in our youth of this city. We need to invest in something for the future. If we don‘t, we are going to continue to despair and more young adults are going to want to leave and never come back home.

It‘s time for the leaders of Jackson to start thinking about the young people of the city. It‘s time for us to come together and make a change for the future.

The time is now.

We can‘t continue to wait on the great white hope. That great Hope is Us the people. We have the power to make the change in our communities. I am tired of sitting back waiting on others to come and save us. I want to be a part of the change in this city and state. I want to be a part of the story of new people coming and no longer leaving. I want Jackson to be the place my children will call home. I want Mississippi to be a place that my children will be proud of.

I want it. Do you?

Ronnie Crudup Jr. is executive director of New Horizon Ministries, Inc., which serves the Metro-Jackson area. He recently was a mayoral candidate, emphasizing the need for all Jacksonians to work together. He studied at Belhaven University and has worked with Young Life. Ronnie has a strong relational presence with others. We welcome him as aMississippi Matters contributor.

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