MOBILE — "Come back to me, and I'll come to you like a hen gathering her chicks. Let's turn our hearts and minds over to Jesus Christ, and he will heal our homes, our families and our communities."
That's the prayer that Mobile police Sgt. John Young has for the world after 33 years in law enforcement. He recently spoke with 1819 News about the message he said came straight from God.
Young made national headlines after becoming emotional and angry last year following the shooting death of 14-year-old Ciara Jackson in Mobile.
During a news interview, Young told reporters the senseless killing was personal.
"Ciara's 14," Young said in the interview. "She died on the street named after Michael Donald, who was the last known lynching by the Klu Klux Klan in 1980. Forty years later, more innocent blood is shed on that street that's supposed to memorialize the death sacrificed. And a black girl is gunned down on that street by a black man. It's disgusting! I said it! There's a subculture of gun violence in the city of Mobile with young, black men, and it's high damn time we did something about it."
Before going out to face the cameras, Young said God moved on him, to tell the truth. He said just one night before the shooting of Jackson, an 11-year-old boy was shot and killed in his own home. Young was hurting with anger. So when God spoke to him, he didn't resist or ask questions and made it his mission to speak out. He thought about what he would say and how he would say it down to the very last detail.
"I usually wear my hat during interviews," he explained. "But I didn't have my hat on because I wanted them to see my eyes. I wanted everyone to see how angry I was and that they should also be as angry as I was. So, my mind was, I was committed to it. I could've stood there for an hour, to tell the truth about the lives that have been lost in Mobile. Regardless of their ethnicity, we should be angry at an 11-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl being killed by gun violence."
Young said he caught some heat by telling the truth and believes there are two reasons for that.
"This is from two sides here," Young said. "One is from the leadership class that does not allow for accountability. It does not allow us to say that the solutions we are seeking come from within."
Young believes people need to stop blaming others for their situations.
"They have deemed it necessary to point the finger that these crimes being committed by young black men are somehow because of an 'ism," Young continued. "Whether it's racism or fascism, that there is a greater responsibility outside of these families, outside of these neighborhoods or communities to cure this problem. They don't see it as the problem begins at the home. The problem started outside of the home from decades or centuries of systemic racism and biases."
While Young is sensitive to the fact that not everyone is raised in a wholesome home with given opportunities, at the same time, he said the solution still comes down to what he called the FEED method: Family, education, employment and discipline.
"If a 13-year-old boy is being raised in that environment, it is the responsibility of the parents to get him into a better environment," said Young. "Maybe that is working incessantly to provide a safe environment for your kids to live and have access to adequate education. It starts with that."
"Beyond that, the behavior of the 13-year-old is up to him. If it is better to go to school and come home and remain in the house, then fine. But anything is better than giving in to the peer pressure to join a gang. I understand his environment. I understand what is happening, but ultimately, it comes down to choice. We have to choose not to drop out. We have to choose not to have children pre-marital. We have to choose to have a job and have gainful employment. We have to be disciplined to do that every day. If given excuses to not do that, then we'll just have more of what we've already had."
The FEED method is all about putting family first, Young explained. And that means from a young age rising above circumstances and making and planning the best life for yourself and your family.
"This means marry before you carry," he continued. "That means graduate high school before you have children. That means get a job before you have children. That means having the discipline to do that every single day … If you have three kids out of wedlock, have no more. That is the environment that we need to change. That is the mindset that we have to reach."
The other issue Young has seen with telling the truth is the perception of what people will say about someone who speaks out. Will you be talked about negatively, or will you be called names? Young says that is very likely, but you must stand up for what's right.
"I have neither of those concerns," Young said. "I don't care. I don't have any financial gain from telling the truth, and no one can call me a liar. When you have no fear of falsehood, you have no fear of name-calling and finger-pointing, telling the truth is easy. I have no fear of what someone might label me. Anyone that disagrees does not say I lied."
In his own experience, watching his family and how he was raised inspired Young.
"I am humble enough to pray before I speak because to God be the glory," he said. "If we change the heart, we become new creatures, and we turn from that lifestyle. But that is a choice that is cognizant. It is personal, and it is intentional. My father is 89 years old. He was born in a segregated Georgia, and in Alabama, he integrated Scott Paper Company and provided a middle-income home for me and my family. Little did I know how often he was threatened to be killed and lynched and thrown over at the paper mill. I didn't know. But he made a determination to make a sacrifice for his family to face that fear every day so I wouldn't have to."
Young said because of that sacrifice, he has lived a full, happy and successful life.
"The battle has been fought," he continued. "The civil rights battle has been fought and won. If you have to go back to slavery, before any of us were born, as the cause for our condition now, I'll say that is lazy, it's disingenuous, and it is a flat-out lie."
Young has taken God's message all over the Mobile area and has even been speaking on a national level. He has spoken at church events, retired citizens events, HOA meetings and other social events, and he has no plans on stopping.
"I will be a harbinger for truth," he proclaimed. "I will show anger and frustration. I will voice the frustration and anger that every red-blooded American has. Every patriot who loves their family and loves God feels the same way that I do. I am just fortunate enough that the Lord looked upon me, gave me the gift of communication and the boldness to walk in the Holy Spirit to tell the truth, and I will say that to anybody, any time and anywhere."
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.