It was the great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, who once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” That quote certainly applies to today’s youth not only here in the nation’s capital, but all across the United States, with one revision: “broken men and women.”

On Saturday evening, January 14, approximately fifty students, parents, coaches, and community leaders gathered at the Anacostia Arts Center for a panel titled, “Coaching Away Violence.” 

Hosted by Don’t Mute DC and other partners, and under the leadership of community activist Ronald Moten, the panel explored the challenges confronting today’s inner-city sports coaches and the important roles that they play in the lives of young men and women as much-needed mentors. 

Indeed, the role of today’s sports coaches often extends beyond sporting activities to include filling gaps in the homes of our young people. 

The moderator was WPGC 95.5’s Poet Taylor.

“Coaching got me to become a better athlete and we all became one as a family and a brotherhood,” said one student panelist who attends Rock Creek Christian Academy, when asked to offer his thoughts on how his football coach has positively impacted his life and that of his fellow teammates.”  

Those in attendance, some shedding tears, remembered 14-year-old Antoine Manning, who was killed in Southeast DC last November. Antoine loved sports, especially football, and is missed dearly by his family, friends, teammates, and coach. 

Street violence continues to wreak pain and suffering on far too many.

Another consistent theme raised by some in attendance is a lack of awareness of community resources available for families in crisis by the district government and other entities. Moreover, many parents dismiss emotional concerns expressed by their children became they themselves lack the ability to address them. 

One such resource organization is the Next Steps Program, LCC. For those in need of assistance, including anger management and depression, program officials can be reached at (202) 642-4443 or nextstepsdc22@gmail.com.

When asked what he had taken away from the students, Moten replied, “I learned to listen.”

Image by: Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer

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