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Father Michael Pfleger on Bringing Jobs, Hope to the 'Hood

Father Michael Pfleger

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If you just work on decreasing numbers without changing lives, the numbers will go back up eventually.”

EBONY: As evidenced by the recent senseless slaying of 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton, far too many young people still harbor a sense of hopeless that manifests itself in such violence. What do you say to youth to not only change perceptions, but also build self-esteem?

FMP: What’s happened in communities like these has been a perfect stormNobody’s building anything, schools are underachieving, and there are no jobs. Hopelessness hardens kids to lash out and feed off one another. Most Americans don’t give a damn about that or kids from these communities. What I tell them is you have to care enough about you to fight for you. Fight for your dreams... don’t aspire to control 79th Street but Wall Street. The difference for all of us starts with you.  

EBONY: We’re now in the era of Obama, how much does that help in terms of building self-esteem in the young people you deal with?

FMP: Difference that can make is off the charts, but so much more needs to be done. It starts with fighting for the poor. All this talk about the recession nearing an end, well, I can tell you the change hasn’t hit 79th Street. The Dow Jones might be up, but Ms. Jones still can’t catch a break in the hood. The love for the Prez we share will always be there, but we’re hoping he will do more to change the lives of the people we’re out fighting for every day.

Glenn Minnis is a veteran sports and culture writer who has contributed to the likes of ESPN, Vibe and the NFL Magazine. He has also been on staff at AOL Sports, the Chicago Tribune and was the founding sports editor for 360HipHop.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc