By David Mark Greaves
Attorney Benjamin L. Crump of the Florida firm of Parks and Crump, addressed the congregation of Siloam Presbyterian Church, where Rev. Dr. Darryll Young is pastor, on their celebration of Men’s Day this past Sunday.
Attorney Crump has taken to heart the dictum of the legendary attorney Charles Hamilton Houston that “A lawyer’s either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society.” Attorney Crump and his partner have used their position of success to be engineers for justice, defending those who cannot defend themselves and to throw a ladder back down in the form of million-dollar philanthropy and providing multiple scholarships at several schools, giving a hand to those coming up.
Crump has gained nationwide attention from his defense of Trayvon Martin and his strategy of public exposure that forced the State of Florida to bring charges against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who used the “Stand your ground” law as a defense in his killing of the unarmed young man going home on a cold, wet night with his hoodie up for warmth.
Attorney Crump is also representing 8 women in Madison, Florida who were arrested by the state of Florida “just because they were registering people to vote. The Department of Florida law enforcement under Republican Governor Scott, came to these women’s homes, with guns drawn, they’ve never committed a crime before, because they were getting voter registration forms mailed to their house.”
It’s important that we stand up when we see injustice. It all starts with one person just refusing to look away. Refusing to stay silent.”
At the service, organized by Elder William Craig, Crump recounted how he was raised in the projects by a single mother who was working two jobs and raising three boys, so he knows first-hand about hard times and he brought a five-point message to Brooklyn about advice to give young men.
It was an inspiring message for young men and for older ones as well.In refusing to stay silent, Crump said that the story of “Trayvon Martin’s journey to justice is the story of all of our little black and brown boys. This whole ‘Stand your ground’ legislation was written to kill little black and brown boys and not be held accountable”. He notes that the law “doesn’t work so well when we ‘stand your ground.’ We had a sister in Jacksonville, Florida, Merissa Alexander, she shot in the air, didn’t even shoot the person, an abusive husband, who said in the disposition that he beat all his women, she shot in the air and they gave that sister twenty-five years.”
1. Life is not Fair
“The first thing I tell my boys, any boys, is that life isn’t fair. Life is hard, and you only get what you bring to the table. And if you don’t bring anything to the table don’t expect to sit down at the table.” Not being fair means accepting the fact that nobody cares about your woes or the situation God put you in and that you have to deal with “as best you can”. “Oh my mother was on drugs. I was raised in a trailer park. I was born in this circumstance or that circumstance. Nobody really cares. We come from “Hard Time, Mississippi” in different parts of life, but people make it all the time out of those circumstances”.
He reminds us that “the legacy of our people is one of ‘making it’, beyond our circumstances. Crump said he takes his cue from fellow Omega Dr. Bill Cosby who tells young men, “I cannot tell you how to be successful, but I can tell you how to fail. And that is to not try.”
2. You have to dream
His second message is to tell young men they have to dream. “They have to dream big dreams. They have to dream bigger than their circumstances”. Giving insight into one way to grow a world-class attorney in the projects, he told of how his grandmother took care of he and his brothers when his mother was working and she purchased a subscription to the local newspaper for them when Crump was in the third grade when he was just getting ready to read. “I remember when we’d come home and she’d be there with a switch in her hand asking for one thing we learned in school that day.”
“Lumberton, North Carolina, a very racist and segregated kind of town, where a black man was not given many opportunities or things to dream about, but when we read that newspaper, I saw a world far bigger than Lumberton, North Carolina.” He recounts how his fraternity brother, Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, said that “A life without dreams is like a bird without wings”. And once given the wings of a dream “you don’t know to what heights our young people can soar.” Key also is telling them to believe in their dreams and not believe the lies coming from other communities that they can’t achieve, can’t rise to the highest levels in whatever field they go into. “We have to tell them don’t believe the lies,” that their dreams can’t become reality.
Crump was sure to note that Malcolm X said you must have a plan in this life to make your dream real. But to make it real, “Your dream has to have an action plan. He quotes T. H. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) saying that “The most dangerous man in the world is the man who dreams with his eyes open. “
When your opportunity come don’t be “Cotton gettin’ ready” about your plan. When opportunity comes knocking you have to be ready to seize on it.
3. Control your own mind
“We must teach young brothers that they must control their thinking. The most important muscle is the muscle in their head.”
“Carter G. Woodson said when you can control a man’s thinking you don’t have to send him to the back door, he’ll go without being told. And if there is no door, he’ll cut one out for his own special benefit.”
Crump drives home the urgency for controlling your own mind by pointing out that you can go to any courtroom in America and watch the shuffling lines of young defendants, distraught parents and the inequality. “You’ll see the same charges. Little black boys, little white boys. The black boys get fingerprinted and leave with the sheriff. The little white boys walk out of the courtroom.”
Controlling your own mind means that young men have to see beyond commercialized rap lyric heroes, beyond MTV and the glorifying of the instant gratification of bling. Leading young people to believe they have a birthright to a Mercedes, to a high tech phone or expensive sneakers and giving them a willingness to do anything to get them.
“We have to tell our young men that anything you truly love, you have to labor for. They cannot do the crazy stuff that brings down not only themselves, but their family, the community and their race, robbing and killing over nonsense. They have to control their own thinking. They have to have their thinking intact.
4. Find and fulfill your purpose.
“You never know what God has chosen you for.” You were not put on earth to wander through life, without direction. And when you triumph, attorney Crump said you must remember “God gave you your blessings, the fancy letters after your name, for you to help others.” And speaking of himself he said “Shame on Crump if I have these fancy law degrees and don’t go back to the projects in Lumberton. And among my white colleagues, I know they don’t have any respect for people who don’t care about their community. If you don’t care about your people, about your convictions, then you don’t care about anything. People expect you to care about injustice, to stand up for what’s right.” A purposeful life is one which recognizes the responsibility we have for each other. “You must lift others as you climb. You can’t justify other people being down while you’re up. And anytime you do you sound like the slave master.”
5. Life is a journey
“And lastly, we have to tell young men, and young women, that life is a journey and that as long as they don’t give up on their dreams there is hope.” Young people have to recognize that life means change. Full of endings and beginnings. Attorney Crump quotes the Chinese philosopher Confucius saying, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”