Students crowd Stallings to hear Wes Moore
By Kimberly Fields
JOMC Journal Editor
Every seat was occupied and 45 people filled the back and side of the room. Those unable to get in peered in through the small window of the door hoping to see and snap pictures.
Wes Moore, author of “The Other Wes Moore,” who spoke at NC A&T Feb. 7, in Stallings Ballroom for a Text-In-Community Program. With a welcoming voice, Moore said he holds high respect for A&T and other colleges and universities, but if students walk across the stage with only a transcript, then they failed to get what they came for.
Moore believes that students should leave with a mission of “Who will I fight for? Who will I advocate for?”
His book, “The Other Wes Moore,” is about two young men who were born a year apart from each other. They grew up, as children, blocks apart in Baltimore, Md. , and had similar challenges during childhood.
One Wes was sent away to military school where he got his life together, joined the army, became a Rhodes Scholar and became a White House Fellow. The other Wes Moore was found guilty of murder and is now spending the rest of his life in Jessup Correctional Institution. Moore focuses on the similarities in their lives, leaving readers to determine the differences. He says that he cannot tell us what the differences are.
“The answer is elusive. People are so widely different, and it’s hard to know when genetics or environment or just bad luck is decisive.” Moore says that it isn’t one or the other, but a combination of them all.
James P. Mayes, director of A&T’s Criminal Justice Program, was a panelist at the Text-In-Community event. Growing up in New York in the 1950’s and 60’s, where Moore also grew up, Mayes said there was community structure to help guide young men and women as opposed to how it was when Moore was growing up and how it is today. He says that mentors were readily available. If you needed help facing challenges, there was help. Having a background in criminal justice, Mayes believes that, currently, prisons and jails are used as social control mechanisms.
“Generally, we spend more on incarceration than education per person,” said Mayes. “ We need to reverse this allocation and change our expectation or mindset.”
Moore spoke about expectation and how he feels the “expectation gap” is a dangerous gap. “We are a nation of self-fulfilling prophecies”, he said, meaning that we act in ways that are expected of us whether negative or positive.
Mary T. Lewis, associate professor of Sociology and Social Work Department, agrees with Moore that the expectation gap is a dangerous gap. “When someone is able to see our strengths, even when we may not be able to do so, and then expects us and supports us with care and honest feedback, we tend to grow and fit those expectations,” she said. “It is like when you know someone believes in you and is supporting, you are more likely to succeed.”
Moore made it clear that his book was not written to tell the story of a good Wes or bad Wes. His purpose was to reach out to all of the “other Wes” of the world with a background they could relate to. James Jones, a sophomore from Washington, D.C. studying broadcast productions, believes that he can relate to Moore because they both come from places where being successful is not as easy as it is portrayed. “I feel like society or your environment can affect your outcome, but in a sense, it is only if you let it.”
Jones said that he is at an age now where he can identify and detach himself from anything holding him back and deterring him from his full potential. Although Jones did not read the book, he said that he found Moore’s speech “intriguing” and filled with information and inspiration.
Mayes advises young men to find a mentor who is doing something productive with their life. “Do not indulge in the many distractions found in our society. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Dedicate yourself to self improvement,” he said.