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STREET SOLDIER by Jr. Marshall


One Man's Struggle to Save a Generation--One Life at a Time

by Jr. Marshall & Lonnie Wheeler

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-31430-2
Publisher: Delacorte

A passionate, perturbing account of one man's Herculean efforts to reach a generation of disenfranchised black youth in the ghettos of San Francisco and beyond. A junior high school teacher and co-founder of the Omega Boys Club, Marshall provides a penetrating critique of black urban America and the values that define the lives of its youth. In a society characterized by guns, unemployment, and crack, young children, too often abandoned by drug-addicted mothers and absentee fathers, seek their surrogate families in street gangs that only wreak further havoc on their lives. Instead of forming friendships, these young people bond together in what Marshall calls ``fearships,'' in which horrendous crimes are committed for the sake of ``preserving one's reputation and not being labeled as a punk.'' The dehumanization of these young people, contends Marshall, is reinforced by street language: Referring to themselves as ``niggas'' and the women in their lives as ``bitches'' and ``hoes,'' young black urban males broadcast their sense of worthlessness. Marshall manages to reach even the most hard-core of these youth by appealing to whatever sense of pride and self-worth may still be intact. Reading the writings of Malcolm X with them is his prerequisite for understanding the institutionalized racism that has allowed—and possibly encouraged—young African-Americans to destroy one another. The author wants black youth to take full responsibility, to rehabilitate rather than destroy themselves. Marshall succeeds, according to testimony from his young friends, because he values them when they have been demeaned by everyone else. He reaches the ``hard rocks'' because of his relentless faith in their underlying goodness. The book's one glaring omission involves Latino youth, whose similarly shattered lives are not considered here. Interspersed with riveting first-hand accounts by the youth portrayed in this book, Street Soldier poses a challenge to all Americans.