Our children perish for a lack of knowledge. They hurt one another because they don’t recognize themselves as valuable or see their brother as a reflection of themselves. They have limited vision because they have limited exposure to life and are unfamiliar with a big and grand world outside of their small and often blighted communities; moreover, their small, undeveloped ideas and potential. They have truncated dreams commensurate with their scarce opportunities and direction. They lack confidence because they need validation and affirmation that is sorely lacking.
After the death of my 15-year-old cousin to Chicago’s south side gang violence and the paralysis of my 14-year cousin, a very bright, athletic, well loved and talented young man from the Englewood community, shot in the back while leaving football practice, the vision for the I Am Abel Foundation was born. As a physician born and raised in Chicago’s Englewood community during the heights of gang dominance and violence in the 70s and 80s, I recall all to well the feeling of being trapped within a maze with no sure direction out. I am fully aware that I have defied statistics and overcome. Saddened that not many have been able to follow, I am determined that my success becomes the norm and not an outlier.
The biblical character Cain, when confronted with the death of his brother asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The I am Abel Foundation has responded resoundingly that yes, we are indeed our brother’s keeper! We are vulnerable often because we are powerful but occasionally because we are powerless, nevertheless, full of endless potential and deserving of opportunity. We are also “Able” to do exceedingly and abundantly as far as our eyes can conceive and heart believe.
Our foundation believes that suboptimal education combined with inadequate mentoring and opportunities are key barriers for our children. Through our camps, conferences, internships and mentoring programs, we are determined to increase exposure, education and opportunities for underrepresented minorities in math and science, ecology, business and education with a strong emphasis on a developing a pipeline to careers in medicine.
We are further determined to take our children out of their comfort zones and expose them to other cultures and ideas through 2ndlanguage acquisition and travel abroad. While expanding a language skills set, our participants become more marketable and adaptable in a multilingual, melting pot society where our neighbors as well as our global partners, share more similarities than differences and with whom we must partner. We believe that to have peace among our neighbors, we must speak the same language both literally and figuratively.
I Am Abel Foundation employs several key principles. Our participants must recognize that because we are “Able” – we are capable of amazing success and must accept nothing less. Because we are “Abel,” we are also our brother’s keeper and are each personally responsible for the success of our brother. Our programs will be implemented not only through vertical mentoring with the help of our partners with a wide range of expertise across the business, science, education and health sectors but also through promotion of a concept we call chain mentoring whereby each student is personally responsible for the mentoring of a fellow peer as well. Our belief is that once your life has been positively affected by the life of another, you must past it on. Therefore, our program will focus on personal and leadership development and a commitment to volunteerism amongst our mentees.
In conclusion, the I am Abel Foundation seeks to bridge socioeconomic gaps and promote achievement amongst underrepresented minority inner city youth so that every child will have a shot at the not so impossible dream.