“We are all brothers and sisters in this mission in supporting our communities. We are a resilient people and we did not get here to the threshold of the new millennium to give up now,” Judge Glenda A. Hatchett said last Thursday.
Hatchett addressed nearly 100 people at the Equal Opportunity Authority’s Second Annual Family Conference entitled “Building Resilient Families” at the Savannah Marriot Riverfront.
The two-time Emmy award winner for the “Judge Hatchett” show and Emory School of Law graduate, received standing ovations and applause as she spoke on the need for communities to come together to encourage change among today’s youth.
“I don’t think there is anything more important than the juvenile court system. We have a chance to get them on track. If we intervene when they are 15, we won’t have to see them when they turn 25,” Hatchett said. “We get caught up on the challenges of life; we forget that we are standing on a promise.”
Hatchett then challenged the crowd to ask themselves “What is it that you’ve always wanted to do and have not done it; and why haven’t you? ” Hatchett said. “Is it because you are scared of how you will feel, you don’t have the confidence or are you too busy dealing with other people’s mess that you can’t tend to your own life?”
“We can’t empower our children unless we are clear with our own empowerment,” she said.
Hatchett quoting an excerpt from her book “Dare to Take Charge” cited a difficult time in her life when she was a law school student and working as a fulltime residential director. She hated law school and became so overwhelmed that she almost quit, however a meeting with her Aunt Francis changed her life.
“My aunt said do you want to be a lawyer? Baby if it were easy everybody and their mama would do it. God has blessed you with a certain set of skills to do what it is you want to do,” she said.
Hatchett, who visited the local Headstart earlier that day, said the community has to invest more in its children and ensure their safe passage from birth to adulthood.
“There are too many folk in jail and strung out on drugs. If we don’t invest in Headstart early, we will pay dearly on the back end. We can’t talk about a father being absent if we don’t talk about how we can make him fully present,” she said.
Hatchett said 24.8 million children live in poverty, 11 percent live in extreme poverty, 67 percent cannot read on a fourth grade level and 65 percent cannot do math on an eighth grade level in Georgia. She also highlighted that Georgia spends $9,649 per pupil, but spends 1.6 million times more on the prison system.
“ We can’t do because we are poor and disadvantage is the old story. Write your own story,” she said describing an incident of racism as a child when she asked her teacher for a new book, only for her teacher to reply “colored children don’t get new books.”
The judge left the audience with a unique homework assignment.
“What is your dream? Put in down on paper. Post it on the ceiling. There is no age limit on posting dreams,” she said. “We need to be in the business of posting our children’s’ dreams so we don’t ever have to post their bail.”