interview

Four Questions for Tyrone Parker

Tyrone Parker, top row in red, with Alliance of Concerned Men participants.

Bio: Tyrone Parker is the executive director of Alliance of Concerned Men (ACM), a nonprofit that works with youth living in high-crime areas in Washington, D.C.

Website: allianceofconcernedmen.com

1. What event or episode in your life has most informed your passion for working with urban youth and families?
One was the loss of my son, Rodney [who was killed in 1989]. The other was the record number of homicides within the District of Columbia. The District was once considered the “murder capital” of the United States.

When we first got started with the intervention program, it was due to a 12-year-old kid who was shot in the nation’s capital on the day of the Clinton inauguration. If you would’ve gone 10 minutes on East Capitol Street, you would’ve seen the inauguration with a major celebration. And 10 minutes down the same street, you had a whole community under house arrest. After that, we came together as a group to form the Alliance of Concerned Men.

2. What sorts of services and programs does ACM provide?
We teach a number of skills to at-risk youth, including gang intervention/prevention and mediation, workforce development, life skills training, leadership development, coaching for re-entry, and youth gang conflict resolution.

3. Can you describe your vision for a “murder free D.C.”?
I imagine communities of youth where the key is that they don’t believe they will die before the age of 18. It offers so much to the city as a whole to give the youth the opportunity to say, “I will get to age 21.” They can begin to invest within themselves and consequently in their family and community. That’s one of the principle factors—to begin to give hope to individuals who do not see hope.

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Tony Kriz: Christian Iconoclast

Courtesy of Tony Kriz

Tony Kriz and his new book, 'Neighbors and Wise Men.' Courtesy of Tony Kriz

Tony Kriz is, in many ways, the definitive postmodern Christian. He’s a Christian writer, teacher, and he even lives in intentional community with fellow Christ-seekers. He comes from an evangelical background, and, though he claims portions of the theology of his youth, he also continues to reinvent himself as he forges the path of Christ in his cultural context.

Known first in the public eye as “Tony the Beat Poet” from Donald Miller’s bestselling book, Blue Like Jazz, he is a voice and a presence unto himself. He’s more inclined to meet friends over a beer than he is to join a particular congregation in worship every Sunday. He is both deeply embedded in the Christian conversation and cultural identity and, at the same time, a stark contrast to what tradition dictates a “good Christian” should look and act like.

I shot a handful of questions his way after a recent book discussion we conducted at First Christian Church in Portland. Here’s what he had to say.

In The Middle: The Challenge of Racial Reconciliation

Catherine Meeks

I suppose I could live my life saying, "I will never allow myself to try to understand white people. I will cut myself off from them. I will live my life as a black woman, and I'll just keep white people in boxes." But to do that means to keep myself cut off from a part of myself. And if white people do that about black people, I think the same is true: It keeps them cut off from a part of themselves.

For those of us who are Christians, I don't think we have any choice in the matter. I think God has made it clear that we're to be reconciled to God and each other. And if we're to be reconciled to each other, that includes everyone who happens to be in the world with us.

Reconciliation demands that you not take sides; it demands that you take a stand, I think—a stand that's maybe a merging of a lot of different pieces that represent several different kinds of philosophical stances. I think that one who chooses a road of reconciliation must be willing to look at more than one side of the coin.

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