From pulpit, Nutter throws book at roving mobs of black teens

Mayor Nutter, arriving yesterday at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, in West Philadelphia, where he would give a rousing sermon on recent teen-mob violence.
Mayor Nutter, arriving yesterday at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, in West Philadelphia, where he would give a rousing sermon on recent teen-mob violence. (DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: August 08, 2011

ADDRESSING the "butthead" youths who've been mobbing Center City and the "sperm donors" who've passed for their fathers, Mayor Nutter thundered from the pulpit of his church yesterday in uncharacteristically fiery remarks.

"You've damaged yourself, you've damaged another person, you've damaged your peers and, quite honestly, you've damaged your own race," he said. "You damaged your own race.

"If you want . . . anybody else to respect you and not be afraid when they see you walking down the street, then leave the innocent people who are walking down the street minding their own damn business. Leave them alone."

Nutter's 30-minute sermon in front of a white-robed choir invoked rousing applause from the packed house at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, in West Philadelphia, where he's been a member for 25 years.

The only problem was that the median age of the congregation appeared about four times that of the 11- to 19-year-olds who have randomly accosted Center City pedestrians this summer in large groups of mostly black youths.

"He might be preaching to the choir," said church member Carol Lee, 59, of Upper Darby, "but I hope his message gets out."

Nutter said later that "even the choir likes a good sermon," and he hoped that those who heard him would share his message with friends, neighbors and children.

Bill Miller, CEO of Ross Associates, a strategic communications firm, said that Nutter's decision to speak at his church yesterday demonstrated leadership.

"If you want to clean house, start at your own house, so he did," Miller said. "You're talking to people in an organized structure who talk to all kinds of people."

Chad Dion Lassiter, president of the advocacy group Black Men at Penn, agreed.

"I don't see it as speaking to the choir because the black church has an opportunity to play a pivotal role of addressing the ills of our society," he said. "The black church can no longer sit idly by maintaining the status quo as young people loudly proclaim, 'We want to know that you care, before we care to know what you know.' "

Nutter's speech to the mostly black congregation was a prelude to an announcement that he and other city officials are expected to make today regarding an increased citywide response to the youth mobs.

Although he declined to specify, Nutter said that among the "significant" announcements to be made today would be increased legal sanctions for parents whose children participate in the mobs. He said that strict enforcement of the citywide curfew, which began Friday, will continue, and that the city will provide more programs at youth centers and help for parents.

Nutter emphasized that it's a very small percentage of the city's youth who bring a bad name to the rest.

"This nonsense must stop. If you're going to act like a butthead, your butt is going to get locked up," he said.

He homed in on absentee fathers and said that those who send money and don't parent are just a "human ATM," and he said that those who don't even give the money are just "a sperm donor."

"That's part of the problem in our community," he said. "Let me speak plainer: That's part of the problem in the black community . . . we have too many men making too many babies they don't want to take care of and then we end up dealing with your children."

Nutter urged all teens to take themselves more seriously if they ever want to find a job.

"Take those doggone hoodies down, especially in the summer," he said. "Pull your pants up and buy a belt because no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt."

After the service, Peter Rushing, 20, of West Philadelphia, a father of two, said he thought that everything the mayor said was true.

"I have a bunch of cousins with a bunch of talents, but it's the crowds they surround themselves with that can be a big influence," he said. "They don't even know they're messing it up for the rest of us."

Ella Jordan, 93, of West Philadelphia, said that Nutter's call to parents really hit home with her.

"When we were growing up we were not allowed to be up later than 7 or 8 p.m.," she said. "I think if they slap enough of the kids in jail, the parents will have to pick them up and it will stop."

D.F. Davis, 51, of Glenside, said she thought that the actions of the youth mobs were a slap in the face to elders like Jordan.

"Our older generation fought hard and it wasn't that long ago we got the right to vote," she said. "For some kids to take advantage of it like this is very troubling."

Davis was accompanied to the service by her 16-year-old daughter, who had her own reaction to Nutter's remarks.

"I wasn't paying no attention," the teen said.

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