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My family on my mother's side come from the west side of Fort Worth Texas in what is called the "Lake Como" Area. For as long as i can remember every year on the fourth of July, the west side would host their annual fourth of July Parade where the locals gathered together and celebrated the nations independence by parading the nicest cars down the street, while good food, fun and laughs filled the atmosphere in what usually was a family friendly event that came and went smoothly. The celebration would kick off around early morning/midday and you would typically see the older residents of the community who had lived in the area for decades attend the parade as well as young kids with their parents and grandparents. Daytime was one thing in Como, but as i grew older i began to see that the fourth of July at nighttime seemed to be an entirely different situation with different challenges.

The night brought death and heartache to families with shootings becoming so normalized that Facebook post would circulate warning people of going to any Como functions on the fourth of July. It unfortunately reminded me of the movie the PURGE in a way, if you're familiar with that film, everyone in the community that wanted to be safe, understood the best course of action to protect themselves from death, was to refrain from going outside at all due to murder and all crime essentially being legal for 24 hr.'s. That's the same feeling that flows throughout Fort Worth on the fourth. In the black community on a day that's supposed to be fun and family oriented, is instead filled with fear, and negative expectations….. but why? Sad as it is, one of the simplest explanations for why violence happens on this day in my opinion, is because of what the day brings…… the holiday brings a people together. Not just any people however, it brings together a people who’ve embraced a toxic culture or way of life! What shocked me to my core is when I found out that this problem of escalated violence on the fourth reached far outside of my city into other ghettos across the U.S

For example, there were 33 people left dead over the holiday weekend across the country. In Chicago this year (2024) there were 109 shootings with 19 fatalities!! There were shootings in Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia as well, historically it's one of our deadliest days of the year. My mind can’t even comprehend that level of evil, in my city this year we contributed to the death toll adding 5 people to the list when we had four shootings, surprisingly Como wasn’t the destination for death this year. I asked myself why? Why do we kill each other at all? and why in the world is acts of violence almost guaranteed to happen when we gather in the night on this holiday?

Poverty isn’t the answer to why violence runs rampant through the black community, we were impoverished certainly during slavery and also afterwards during reconstruction, but we didn’t show the level of hatred and disregard for each other during those eras that we do now, when we’re free and liberated to live as we choose. I won't allow anyone to blame slavery for the hatred we see in the black community today, neither will i entertain conversations that the white man or white supremacy is the answer for our lack of self-control! In my opinion There is something wrong with the culture as a whole! The culture that says wherever my enemies are at, I’m willing to risk my life and others to execute them even if it means children are around and could get hurt!

July 4th, 2024, for me will always be remembered as the horrible day that Two sisters, 15-month-old Wynter Thouston and 4-year-old Ivy Pierce were killed in a shooting that took place less 3 minutes from my home. They were at a car wash with their family enjoying the fireworks late night around 11;40 pm, when 26-year-old Kanard murphy after apparently getting into a dispute with his baby mother's family thought it best to open fire recklessly killing the two sisters as well as another man 42-year-old Terrell Winn who had nothing to do with the dispute in the first place.

This news saddened me of course but it angered me more than anything! The first thing i heard people complaining about is why the children were out that late at night, blaming the time for the evil that took place. Of course, i get it, i actually took my children out to see the fireworks but i had them back in bed before 10 Pm. So, from a parent's perspective, i get that, but let's say some Asians got together at the same exact time to watch the fireworks with their children, or Europeans, even Hispanics, would we expect negative deadly outcomes to result from their gatherings? i say absolutely not!

Of course, these communities aren't close to perfect, and we know that the sin curse has spread to all mankind, I'm just highlighting the brokenness in the black community because I'm apart of it and have gotten to see the scars of our depravity up close and personal. Going back to the culture problem, i believe this shooting happened in part because of an issue that's far too prevalent in our communities, "the baby mama drama" issue. as a people we're known for having children out of wedlock leading the nation in that category with over 70 percent of children in the black community growing up with only one parent. Our culture knows this is a problem, but it still promotes the very things that contribute to broken homes (sexual immorality, violence and godlessness)

i can hear you now asking "how in the world does the broken home problem explain the shooting that took place? here's how....... the society at large is the reflection of the home! when we see a disregard for life, lack of self-control and violence in a certain community we can pinpoint the home as the place that's producing those realities. What happened in this situation was 3 innocent people happened to be at the wrong place at the absolute wrong time. Baby mama drama between one man and one woman spilled out into the community and changed lives forever! Those two babies had no idea they were in the middle of a war because two adults didn't know how to settle their differences like adults. and I'm afraid that thousands of other kids are in a warzone on a daily basis, hanging in the balance between life and death because their parents embrace a toxic culture and environment that breeds destruction.

This isn't the first time that the brokenness in the black family has caused destruction to the community at large and unfortunately it won't be the last. Across the city in other neighborhoods there were also shootings at block parties and events that took lives and I'm sure if we dissected them separately, we'd see a family problem again.

Black people we need to love each other again!! we need to prize loving our women! we need to prize loving our children! we need to embrace the love of God and fall in love with his laws again! the most important one being to " Love God with all of our mind, soul and strength, and to love our Neighbor as ourselves!" (See Matthew 22:36-40)

I'm focused on doing my part in helping to transform and renew our culture! i want to change the music we listen to and create, i want to change the films we produce and consume, i desire to help us correct our views about God and his son Jesus Christ that we might live the abundant lives he created us to live. I get that i won't be able to change the black community alone, but hopefully my labor will produce lasting fruit that brings healing and restoration in the end! Prayerfully other's will be inspired to join me!

Rest in peace to 15-month-old Wynter Thouston and 4-year-old Ivy Pierce! I'm sorry you felt the sting of our brokenness as a people and didn't get to live out your days!

below is a song I wrote on the problem of murder and heartlessness that we're dealing with in our culture! give it a listen

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Something struck me last week as i was breaking my diet plan at the mall stuffing my face with some freshly made Cinnamon sugar pretzel bites from Aunty Annies. Even as a thirty-year-old, father of four and husband of one lol I realized after all these years I still loved my Pacifier from when I was a baby. Just hear me out before you throw the wierdo tag on me...... I was having a pretty stress filled day last week that started as soon as I woke up to take my kids to summer camp in the morning. I woke up late so i had no time to make their lunches or give them breakfast for that matter so I'm automatically rushing to get them dressed and the whole 9. After I finally get them to their destination, I have a flat on my vehicle on the highway and ended up being late to work because of it, on a day that I was supposed to be training someone. I could bore you with the rest of the mundane mishaps that took place, but I'll spare you this time, just know that my day ended up sucking so bad that on the way home although I knew my diet placed a clear restriction on eating a sugary high calorie snack, I found myself enjoying it anyway.......and I enjoyed every bite!

It wasn't long after I finished however that I begin to get upset at myself for cheating on my diet and not only that, my stomach let me know it disapproved of my decision as well. What does this have to do with me as grown man loving my pacifier? Easy, think about it, a baby who's upset over something is usually able to be soothed with this small little object called a pacifier. I've seen it firsthand with every one of my children, they could be screaming bloody murder at the top of their little lungs but for some weird reason when i would give them their pacifier it was as if Jesus himself entered the room and said PEACE BE STILL! and boom just like that the tears would stop, and the screams would cease. In this way their proved to be major benefits of keeping a Pacy close by wherever we went as a family just in case one of the kids erupted. The downside however was that the Pacifier could never keep them quiet for good, especially if my kids were hungry, they could be quieted and comforted for a moment but ultimately unless I gave them food to satisfy their hunger all the pacifier did was make them feel good for a moment.


In that mall that day I realized I was soothing myself by cheating on my diet. Inside I was crying just like a baby would because I had a tough day, and my answer was to give myself something I honestly knew wouldn't satisfy me but rather just comfort me for a moment. Again, after I finished with my Pacy I was upset again and even more so because I was mad at myself. Now this is a kind of lighthearted case but how many of us are pacifying ourselves with sexual immorality as we cheat on our spouses? how many of us soothe our pain with porn or drugs and alcohol? No need to feel embarrassed because i believe we all have at some point. Anything that we run to only to give us temporary comfort for a problem is vanity in the end. It leaves us in a maze of unfulfillment, discouragement, and disillusionment.

Seek Satsifaction In God

instead of pacifying our pain we need to seek the Lord that he might satisfy our deepest longings. The first step in victory is acknowledging the issue and humbly bring it to God whatever it might be. The scriptures state in Pslams 16:11

You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.

the pleasure your soul thirst for is found in the Prescence of God! make it your goal to encounter him on a daily basis, whether good days or bad days lie ahead, after making it your lifestyle to live in the Prescence of God you'll find that nothing in this world can fill you like he can, give you peace like he can and give you life like he can!!

I love y'all

written by Jalen Perkins

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Followers of Christ today are called Christians around the world, and Christianity is the largest religion on the earth with over 2.4 billion people claiming to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ! That's about 31.2 percent of the world's population!! Now this would be absolutely amazing if only it were true. I'm not attempting to sound arrogant or conceded, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that although billions profess to be followers of Christ, by the looks of the world around us something must be off. Again, the followers of Christ are called Christians and many proudly wear this title, however in the scriptures time and time again we see the followers of the Lord referred to as " Disciples" more times than not, so i think it'd be wise to investigate what a disciple really is.

I'll start by turning our attention to one of my favorite shows growing up which was the " Avatar the Last Airbender" i was captivated by the story line of this show as a kid, the world had four nations, Earth, Fire, Water and Air and there were benders in each of these nations that lived in harmony with one another. As the intro to the show famously says " everything changed when the fire nation attacked" the members of the Fire nation threw the world out of balance by seeking to become supreme over the others by destroying them and subjugating the world under its power. The Avatar was the only hope for the world, being that he alone had the ability to master all 4 elements (Water, Air, Fire, earth) and defeat the fire lord in battle restoring peace and balance to the world.

The only problem was the avatar was a 12-year-old kid from the air nation who only knew how to air bend (Long Story) The shows plot takes the viewer on the life changing journey of Aang the Last air Bender and his mission of learning all the elements as he studied under the various masters that he might become a master himself and fulfill his destiny!

Now how on God's green earth does this Nickelodeon kids show illustrate for us what discipleship looks like for a follower of Jesus? Easy, let's look at Luke chapter 6:40

you see, Christ called us to be disciples, and the word for disciple literally means "Student" one who learns/ an apprentice. The passage says that everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher! As we know, the Lord Jesus initially called twelve men to follow him closely and learn from him as they did life with him on a very personal level. His own attributes of love, servanthood, sacrifice and self-control he desired for them to learn from him, not just for learning's sake, but so that they would adopt these virtues as their own and be like him, and as they became more like him, they would touch the world in an amazing way. It would be a waste of his time and energy if after spending three and a half years with them, the disciples remained the exact same as when he called them to follow him initially. In the Avatar series, we see Aang struggle to learn the elements, it took hard work, it demanded hours of training, getting up early, studying late and sometimes even fighting the enemy head on which we can call on the job training. Aang had great teachers along the way, he learned from the best masters in each of the respective nations, and by the end of the show after his intense training he became like his master's and fulfilled his destiny as the Avtar.

Is it possible that the world looks like it does, engulfed in sin, chaos and decay because the masses although professing to be Christians have failed to be disciples? If 2.4 billion people around the world were students of Christ learning from him and not only learning but conforming to his ways in every area of life, this world would then look more like Jesus! We need more disciples! We need more men and women who aren't interested in checking off a religious box or joining a denomination, but interested in following the son of God, learning from him and ultimately becoming as he is. Then and only then will we see authentic change in the world.

Jesus gives us the answer as to why many elect either not to follow him at all or follow him halfheartedly only, he says in Matthew 16:24

" Then Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me"

This isn't signing up for the country club ladies and gentlemen, it's not easy to deny ourselves and embrace sacrifice, servanthood and a road filled with hardship and self-denial.......he never promised it would be easy but WORTH IT! he promises abundant life, eternal life and peace forevermore for those who lose their lives for his sake, and although some will indeed be called to lose their physical lives for his glory, all of us have been asked to lay down control of our lives for him. On the contrary, to those who pass on discipleship to instead gain the world and the vanity it has to offer, he promises a loss of genuine life, condemnation and judgement. I pray today that we count the cost and use wisdom and CHOOSE CHRIST and by doing so choose the authentic life that proceeds from Him as well.

I love y'all!

written by Jalen Perkins, Author, hip hop Artist, youth minister

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