Whether it is because we simply do not have any real leaders in our communities or whether he simply understands the art of bringing them all together, Reverend Eugene Rivers of Boston, Massachusetts has left an unforgettable impression on the people of Toronto.

Finally, after years of buck passing and finger pointing, someone has finally stood up to say the obvious, and he did it with absolutely no fear of reprisal and for no politically motivated reason. What a pleasant change, not unlike a breath of fresh air.

Rev. Rivers came to the media’s attention in Boston in the 1990’s where he was credited with having a profound effect on the city and in reducing that city’s murder rate by half. His secret? A faith that is real and that elusive quality, the oxymoronical common sense.

You see, Reverend Rivers simply sees what most people would have seen 30 or 40 years ago. It is quite the statement to say that in such a short time, the truth has been made so difficult to recognize. As well as seeing the truth, he has been given the gift that enables him to expand on the principles that he understands in a way that will allow those listening to grasp that truth. To be able to see truth and impart it yet to others is an amazing quality.

The pastor from Boston, home of the Red Sox, held nothing back over the 3 day trip to Toronto as he spoke his mind and spoke what he knows is the truth. As I said, Mr. Rivers had nothing to lose or gain here. He simply wished to open the eyes of the black community where the violence has been so concentrated, and to open the eyes of the city that it may understand what is needed if we truly wish to make things better.

Eugene touched on the problems that are facing our city, and focused on all aspects of life in Toronto. To the black community, he told them to own the problem of gun violence, as it is blacks who are killing each other. No one in Toronto, white or black, has had the courage to go on record with such a statement. To the church, he implored them to work together, as each church has its own power base and influence. To politicians, stop the pandering and work with the community to find solutions.

As for the rest of us, we must also pull together and lend a hand. After all, it doesn’t matter in which area cancer starts, it will eventually kill the entire organism.

Pastor Rivers was joined by several popular hip-hop artists as he spoke up against the profanity and gangster culture of some rap music. (Remember some trying to disallow 50 Cent from appearing in Canada?) He went on to decry parents who do not raise their children properly. No one in our city has had the courage to stand up and make that statement, either.

We must stop blaming government for our faults, another one of Reverend Rivers’ statements said. We cannot continue to expect government to take care of our every need, our every demand. We must start to do things for ourselves. To this, I say Hallelujah.

He was also quick to point out that the discourse in the black community that relies on the old cry of racism, which he called “a certain kind of racial political discourse” just doesn’t cut it. “That’s an old paradigm that doesn’t work,” Reverend Rivers said. It comes down to family and culture. If you’re in touch with your culture and have a strong family “racism can’t stop you.”

I find it sad that it has taken a complete stranger to our city to come here and set us straight. That is the result of too many egos checking in at our city’s gates and within its limits. There are too many politicians who only act when it is politically expedient to do so. There are too many black activists who claim to want to make a difference but simply go about making their own names. There are also simply too many parents who don’t give a rats foot about their own children.

The worst thing of all is that it appears that we simply do not have any real leaders. Leaders are men and women who do the right thing regardless of the political cost. We definitely need more men of the calibre of Eugene Rivers.

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