Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Stephen Lashely, presenting Reverend Al Sharpton with a mahogany sculpture during an interactive session with young people at the Wildey Gymnasium. (A. Miller/BGIS)
"Freedom is chaos without responsibility."
This was the message from the Rev. Al Sharpton, as he spoke to a gathering of over 4000 primary and secondary school-aged children at the Wildey Gymnasium, today.
In a speech punctuated by applause, the American civil rights activist spoke on the topic, "Marrying Rights and Responsibilities to Produce a Better World – The Role of the Youth." ??Rev. Sharpton charged the young people to "look at the Man in the Mirror" and to remember that they were consequences to how they use their freedom.??
"At the end of the day, you and I are no more responsible for anything and anybody but the person you see in the mirror. We have fought as black people all over the world for freedom, but if we do not understand that the price for freedom is responsibility, [then] freedom is just chaos without responsibility," he said.
Making reference to his own experience of growing up poor and without a father in Brooklyn, New York, Rev. Sharpton advised the youth to decide from an early age, what their point and purpose was in life and to work to attain it, despite their circumstances.??
He added:?? "Life is not about where you start; life is about where you are headed… You can go and say the world is stacked against me, or you can say other people had worse circumstances and they made it and I’m as good as they are and I can make it too…
Nothing good happens without work, sacrifice and responsibility and if you don’t think enough of yourself to put in the work to make something of yourself, then you will be left with nothing and you can blame no one but yourself."
After his near 20 minute address, Rev Sharpton fielded numerous questions on how he overcame the obstacles of his childhood, his work during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, and his relationships with President Barack Obama, the late Michael Jackson and the Godfather of Soul, the late James Brown. While urging young persons to be the head of their own fan club, Rev. Sharpton warned them to watch how they defined themselves as it would dictate how they would be treated.
Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Stephen Lashely, presented The Reverend with a mahogany sculpture in appreciation and thanked the activist for speaking to the youth of the island.?? Mr. Lashley implored the children to internalise the knowledge given so that it would energise them to contribute to the nation’s development.??
"I believe that the presentation will certainly motivate everyone present to look at his/herself as an individual, as well as a member of a group, whether it be school, family, organisation or community….?? Today’s event is indeed timely to further propel youth empowerment and action, as it follows on the heels of our celebration of our National Heroes and precedes another critical youth event that will be held next month," the Youth Minister stated.
While delivering closing remarks, President of the Youth Development Council, Jason Francis asked the enthusiastic audience to repeat the words:?? "I will not let my circumstances define me. I am responsible for my future. The future is in my hands."
The Reverend’s life spans the transformation of race relations in the USA, from the struggle for civil rights in the 1960’s, to the election of the first African-American president of the United States of America in 2008. He became an Ordained Minister of the Pentecostal Church at 10 years old and was known as the ???Boy Wonder Preacher" of the Washington Temple Church of God.