Commentary: Urban Congress’ message to Baton Rouge is ‘Leave No One Behind’

The routine of deplaning on the last leg of my flight from Baton Rouge to Washington, DC was interrupted by a message from the captain. He said there was a Marine on board escorting remains and asked that when he turned the seat belt light off–indicating that passengers could move about the plane and collect their belongings–that we all stay seated so the Marine could get off first.A feeling of sadness immediately swept through the plane. Many of the passengers seated in the window aisle were immediately moved to near tears–some actually wept–at the site of the fallen soldiers’ family crying as a team of Marines very orderly and reverently placed the casket in the back of a hearse.
For a moment, a busy airport came to a screeching halt and a feeling of connectedness and quiet reflection filled a gate at Reagan International airport.
I relayed what I (and others) experienced to my sister, a Gulf War veteran, and my father, who served his country more than 30 years in the New York State Army National Guard. I relayed the sadness and unexpectedness of the moment. Both said that’s what they do in the military. You are never supposed to leave anyone behind; someone should always be there with you, even in death.
Despite where you might stand on issues of war, many of us can agree that the idea that we never walk alone is comforting, uplifting, and encouraging. We need to model that same sentiment–never leaving a man, woman, or child behind–in our communities. When we see someone or some group struggling in any area of life as a result of personal or public policy decision-making, we should use our resources and talents to help that person or group in need. If we are short on either (resources or talent), we can still offer a word of encouragement, which cost very little and can yield great returns.
Phrases like, “No Child Left Behind” and “My Brother’s Keeper,” both controversial federal initiatives, must have real meaning, or as my pastor, Raymond A. Jetson, reminds the congregation at Star Hill Church, “If it’s not true, then we should stop saying it.”
On Saturday, April 16, 2016, a group of concerned citizens gathered in Baton Rouge to discuss the challenges facing Black boys and men and create a framework and an action plan for addressing the big and complex issues that far too many Black males face. Urban Congress will without question move an entire city to see their past, present, and future as forever linked.
The Urban Congress on Black Boys and Men is designed in such a way that individuals, groups, and communities will (re)commit themselves to one another and to never again walk away or appear disinterested when it comes to the plight of another. The Urban Congress on Black Boys and Men message to Baton Rouge: Leave no one behind.
The work of The Urban Congress on Black Boys and Men is ongoing. Working groups are meeting and the first ever all-male cohort of the Urban Leadership Development Initiative begins on Friday, June 10, 2016, to provide the participants with the necessary skills to mobilize people to tackle the tough challenges facing Black boys and men in Baton Rouge and transform the community from within.
For more information about The Urban Congress on Black Boys and Men visit Get involved today.

By Lori Latrice Martin, Ph.D.
LSU Associate professor of sociology and African American Studies