Lonise Bias Builds on Sons' Legacies

Barrington M. Salmon | 8/24/2011, 2:07 p.m.

"A lot of people speak to me and say it's hopeless," she said. "There is hope, especially if adults and parents are willing to increase their energy and involvement. Parents can't wait until their children are 15 to start this process."

Lonise Bias said she has seen the problems afflicting the African American and wider communities from up close and characterized the present as "the best of times and the worst of times."

"All this chaos is going on where children lie, cheat, steal and disrespect their mommas," she said. "I have never seen a time when young people have been so disrespectful. Yet they are respectful and responsive to authority."

She said the intentions of those seeking to help children and teens must be pure and authentic, and she cited the need for an infusion of character education in whatever young people are being taught.

"Increasing character education will have the desired effect," she said. "You need to be of good character because if not, the blind leads the blind and they all will fall into a ditch. We have to assess why we are in this situation."

"With character education, a young person will know how to act toward responsible authority, and know what's acceptable. Life has times and seasons. Beyonce will fade too."

In all her dealing with young people, Lonise Bias said, she seeks 'to deal with the heart not the mind.'

"I am dealing with the tender parts," she said softly as she pulled a bag of acorn seeds from a desk drawer. "... I plant the seed for them when they make a decision. The big problem is that the wrong seeds are being planted. If you give negative, you get negative. You cannot fool senior citizens, children or dogs. They'll spot a phony a mile away. Good advice with poor examples is confusing. Who we are really, really counts in the development of men, women, boys and girls."

"I have the love, faith and belief that they can make it in the midst of hardship. You can make it. This is a seed that can bring forth fruit. My seed is a gentle reminder of who they are."

Bias said her attempts and those of others like her to rescue and turn around the lives of young people is being undertaken against the backdrop of extreme pressure and stress on families.

"People are juggling (tasks and responsibilities), afraid of losing substantive things and want to have all these material things but we do not embrace the things money can't buy," she said.

"That's where the real power is. Hardship is good for us. Our great-grandfathers, grandmothers and our ancestors set the foundation for us. The things we deal with today cannot compare with what our ancestors went through."

She said she grieves when she sees "babies coming back in body bags" from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan but said Americans are involved in a war right here on our shores.

"We're dealing with two types of wars, internationally and within our community," she explained. "There will always be casualties of war. We have always had this but I believe change is coming. We have to come out of denial."