Nov. 17, 2003 – "Be a man" was the message that Judge Joe Brown brought to a packed auditorium of young males at Charlotte Amalie High School on Monday.
Men "have got to be in charge and assume the leadership function," the host of the syndicated "Judge Joe Brown" television show told the youths. "We want the ladies to respect us."
"It is 3 a.m.," Brown said as he launched into a scenario. "There is a crash downstairs. Your lady leans to you and says 'Baby, there is something downstairs.'" And, Brown said, "That is your job, to sacrifice yourself for the right cause."
The former Memphis, Tennessee, judge who has had his TV show since 1998 spoke candidly about problems facing young men today, such as jail, drugs, poverty and fatherhood, while referencing historical circumstances that he said caused many of them.
He warned the few adult women in the room to be prepared for an aggressive presentation geared toward his male audience.
"They try to get you to be a fool," he told the young men. And he warned that by their senior year of high school, many of them would be gone — "dead, wasted or in the penitentiary." And, he added, one out of five of them would be dead by the age of 30 "because of somebody that looks like you."
Brown told the students that many of his childhood friends are dead. One difference for those who made it, he said, was that they decided to change their lives.
"We need your help," he said. "You need to change it. I'm too old for it now."
He also asked the youths: "Do you like having 13 to 15 year old girls determining how you live?"
Many young mothers who "don't know much" at the age of 13 to 15 indirectly through conversations with other young women send their sons the message that they are not worth much, Brown said, and this influences the minds of many young males.
According to Brown, the only image of raw masculinity that many young men see is hip hop.
He asked how many of the students would like a nice car. All raised their hands. He told them they could wind up making payments for 60 months to realize that dream. Then he encouraged the students to make a 24-month lease to themselves by looking into their books every day and making a payment on themselves.
"Be righteous, be straight up, and it will all come to you," he said.
Brown urged the students to read "everything," to seek an understanding of the past to guide them through their future, and to learn so that they can lead and be remembered for what they have done when they are gone.
After the presentation of one and a half hours, many of the students stayed in the auditorium to talk with Brown during their lunch break.
"He showed us we need more men in this world to handle the business of family," Angel Polanco, a CAHS senior, said.
"You don't have to be a thug to be a man," Listar Henry, a freshman, said.
"I would bet anything that not one young man will go to jail," Sen. Emmett Hansen, said of the students in the audience. Hansen, who arranged for Brown's appearances in the territory, told the youths he wants them to know it is cooler to walk with school books than with a Glock, a brand of handgun.
Brown was the first African-American prosecutor in Memphis, Tennessee, and also directed the Memphis Public Defender's Office. On the Memphis bench he gained national attention when he reopened the trial of James Earl Ray for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
From his morning visit to CAHS, Brown went at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, where he was to speak Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, he is to be a guest on the "Topp Talk" show on WVWI Radio at 10 a.m. and on Amos Carty's "Talk 2" show on TV2 at 7:45 p.m.. On Wednesday, he will speak at Central High School at 9:30 a.m. and at Education Complex at 11:30 a.m. On Thursday, he's to guest on Radio Latino 98 on St. Croix at 8 a.m. and appear on the WTJX-TV program "Topics" out of St. Croix at 7:30 p.m.
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