03/01/11 — Little girl lost: It is time to do something -- before we lose even one more innocent life

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Little girl lost: It is time to do something -- before we lose even one more innocent life

She was only 3 years old.

Little Princess Shelby King had a whole life to live.

Who knows whom she could have been had she had the chance to grow up?

She was the innocent victim of a criminal's anger -- a child playing at a playground when a 29-year-old man allegedly decided to let loose a gunshot, a child caught in a crossfire she had nothing to do with.

And just like that a young girl was gone.

It would be enough just to mourn such a waste of a life. But we need to do more -- even if it is too late for Princess Shelby King.

There are many children who live in Goldsboro's housing projects, and more than a few battle conditions that no child should have to face.

Even if they have parents who are active, interested and who take care of them as best they can demanding that they learn responsibility, honor and self-respect, these children live in an environment that fosters hopelessness, drug use, crime and the horrible, Catch 22 of teen promiscuity that often leads to parenthood years before they are ready.

They have to worry about whom they are going to run into on the playground or in a dark alleyway as they make their way home from school. They are exposed to the lure of drugs and easy money -- and are around teens and young adults who are more than eager to show them how to join the fold.

They live in government housing that is less than high quality, with little to call their own. They are around some people who could care less whether they live in squalor or have trash blowing by their door.

They have few role models and much to overcome -- even before they try to pursue an education.

And then there are the others -- children who not only face all the pitfalls of a life in a housing project, but who also are from less than healthy homes, with one or two parents who have other priorities and whose main interest is in their own comfort and habits, not the welfare of their children.

Some of these children have the added burden of having to be parents to their younger siblings -- and to protect from an emotionally or physically abusive parent or to hide a parent's drug or alcohol use.

They are from families where the children keep coming -- even though there is not money or a family able to support their needs.

So when these youngsters grow into teenagers, they are already on a path to disaster -- and preparing to dump the one thing in their lives that is really positive, the pursuit of an education.

And when those teens become young adults, and there is no more school to attend, they look for something else, somewhere else to fit in -- and for many, that means drugs or crime.

And that is how a criminal is born.

Now you know why it is time to speak up, to address the issue of the future of inner city youths and to quit pretending the problem is not there.

Little Princess Shelby King is why we cannot afford not to say what needs to be said and why we must insist that those who say they are really out to make a difference address the real concerns -- even if they do not want to talk about them.

There is a crisis in the making here and we cannot afford to meet it head-on with anything but truth, honest reflection and a no-holds-barred discussion.

We are not the only community that has this problem.

But we can be one of the few that decides it is going to do something about it -- and mean it.

All it takes is a few brave community leaders and a public that is ready to roll up its sleeves and to demand more for these children -- including more accountability from the adults who are supposed to be looking out for them.

That way another caring parent of another innocent child will not have to wonder what his or her daughter or son could have been had he or she had a chance to make it to 18.

Published in Editorials on March 1, 2011 11:23 AM