And Francis and his wife, Dr. Leah Francis, are also leading by example: they have two young sons who don’t play with toy guns or any violent toy weapons.
Leah Francis, Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, said in a recent essay that parents who allow their children to play with toys as harmless as water pistols still sends the wrong message to their kids.
“Gun violence is largely concentrated in parts of the city that are disproportionately black and poor, but its reverberations are often felt around the metro area,” she wrote. “And in all of these spaces, children are present. Too many of St. Louis’ children have heard gunshots, know someone who has been shot, or have witnessed a shooting.”
“They have seen violent images on television and heard violent expressions set to music,” she added. “Exposure to violence has become par for the course for many of St. Louis’ children. This reality is a far cry from the idealistic images of childhood that show children playing freely without having to duck and run for cover.”
Sadly, the toy-buy-back initiative comes as a six-year-old girl remains in critical condition after she was seriously wounded in a shooting last week while attending a vigil with her family in Chicago.
Quianna Tompkins and at least 40 others were at the home for a memorial for 24-year-old Brandon “Bones” Snipe, who was killed five years ago during a shootout.
Tompkins was shot in the chest and was listed in critical condition at Advocate Christ Medical Center.
“What’s the purpose?” a witness, Tasha Moore, told reporters. “Whoever you want, you go up to them. You don’t shoot in no crowd with kids and women.”
Black children and young black men are dying senselessly in urban cities every day. In fact, 54 people were shot in Chicago during George Zimmerman’s three-week murder trial in the Trayvon Martin shooting. I hope more black parents begin to take ownership of a cultural epidemic that could wipe out a generation of young black men.
“The bottom line is this: as parents and caregivers, we have the power to choose what we put in our children’s hands,” Leah Francis wrote. “Why not choose toys and activities that will stimulate their intellect, nurture their creativity, and enliven their spirits? Why would we choose to have our children mimic the very behavior that has destroyed immeasurable numbers of families and communities?”
These are very challenging questions. I’m glad Rev. Rodney Francis is working on the answers.