By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
Is it a good idea to join a gang? Earl King wants you to think it through.
With gang violence still rocking the city, King, a Chicago native and former NBA professional basketball player, has written an interesting guide aimed at helping parents and young Black males make good, life-changing decisions that could lift families out of poverty and reduce violence in their community.
Titled “Critical Decisions,” the book was published this year and offers a wide range of information on the gang culture from its recruitment of young Black males, to peer pressure. The book also explores self-esteem, bullying, resolving conflicts and the importance and impact of restorative justice on social problems. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, wrote the book’s foreword. The book can be purchased on Amazon.com.
The book’s biggest objective is to help readers make critical decisions that could affect their lives and futures.
The second half of “Critical Decisions” contains a section called the “Life Development Skills Educational Curriculum.” It’s a comprehensive, five-hour teaching program for teachers and trainers that focuses on risk taking, coping skills, conflict resolution and group interaction. There are also many charts, guides and information on identifying youth who are at risk for joining gangs.
The book includes a questionnaire, exercises and a training workshop that engages participants in role-playing sessions requiring them to use logic and reason in certain situations.
“You’re teaching them what they’re doing and what’s happening right now,” King said. “They see what they’re doing and how they would end up. You’re showing them the good and the bad as they make critical decisions.”
King was one of the architects of the Gage Park Peace Summit from 1993-1995, along with clergy, businessmen and community activists around the country. The group developed the first covenant of peace among gang members on “stop the violence.” King also co-authored “The Urban Peace and Justice Report,” a report documenting gang violence.
A graduate of Morgan Park High School, King was a basketball player on the 1972 All-City first team. After excelling in basketball and academics, he earned a four-year basketball scholarship to the University of North Texas, where he graduated with a bachelors’ degree in business administration. He holds a master’s degree in communication from Governor’s State University and a doctorate degree in Alcohol, Tobacco from Gospel Ministry Outreach Theological Institute in Houston, Texas.
A former spokesperson and deputy director of operations under the late John H. Stroger, King worked as a vice president for the Spiegel Group catalog subsidiary.
Today, King is the community college liason in south suburban Thornton Township High School District. He directs the adult transition program for young adults with special needs, ages 17-22. The program presents course work that prepares students to graduate high school, and attend a community college. In the final phase the students acquire the skills to live on their own and manage an adult lifestyle.
Before King served in boardrooms and classrooms, he signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Clippers. In 1987, King created the No Dope Express Foundation to help youth fight drugs and gang violence.
In 1996, King took 13 boys from NDEF to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. In 1995, he spoke at the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., and in 1994, King was named “Man of the Year” by Dollars and Sense magazine.
He has been featured in many television and print outlets. He has been a guest on Oprah, C-Span, CNN and Geraldo Rivera.
King said he used his business, professional and educational experience to write “Critical Decisions.” He wants the book to become part of the curriculum for all students in Chicago Public Schools.