He”s a man with a message. When he tells it, he downplays the sadness and plays up the salvation. But there has been plenty of sadness in Tyrone Cole”s past.
Cole, an associate minister at Mount Hebron Baptist Church in Aliceville, Ala., is a towering man. He has close-cropped hair, and his eyes indicate he”s seen pain in his life. He”s a snappy dresser, outfitted in a navy blue, pinstriped suit with a matching tie and pocket square. He”s quiet but well spoken, and he has a burning sincerity to save young men from going down the wrong path.
On Saturday evening, the preacher spoke to 125 people at the Stop the Violence; Promote the Peace youth rally at the activity center at Propst Park. The event, sponsored by the Columbus chapter of the National Action Network, included a mash-up of local clergy, entertainers and city officials, all of whom spoke about the importance of reaching local youth before they get into trouble.
Cole”s message that night was simple. No matter what struggles appear in life, there is always a choice between good and evil.
What was your main point at the rally?
The message I wanted to relay to them is that if they allow themselves to be taught, the word of God will direct them so they won”t have to make the wrong decisions and make wrong friends. We live in a society now where they”re building more prisons than they are building educational institutions. Once we begin to teach our kids to really revere and fear God, their set back can be a set up. We may not have both parents in the home; we may not have the best education; we may not have nice cars; we may not have this, or we may not have that; but if I”ve got a relationship with Jesus, I”ve got all I need that will take me to the next level so I don”t have to make bad choices like some of my friends who lie in the grave or some that are in prison.
How has violence affected you personally?
I have a nephew that made a very poor decision in Chicago, and now he”s paying 55 years of his life. He shot a man and killed him. He”s 24, and he”s now looking at 50-something years because of poor decisions. I have family members that are in jail and out of jail. It all boils down to this: Even when the violence comes to us, we don”t have to retaliate to get even. Every fight is not a good fight. You have to choose your fight, and you have to choose the right weapons to fight with. A lot of us are choosing wrong weapons, going into fights. Almost every fight starts with words. If we keep letting words set us off, we”re going to lose all our fights. But when are we going to get to the place where the words no longer affect us? We don”t have to play into the enemy hand.
What was your path into the ministry?
Mine came from bad choices. I was at the verge of getting into gangs. I kept getting into trouble, but the step before I got into the gang, the Lord got into me. He rescued me before I made that bad choice. Out of all of my friends that I grew up with, I”ve got at least five or six dead and the rest of them in prison. I was with the guys when they did snatch-and-grabs. We don”t think about how we affect other people with some of the stuff we do.
How great of a problem is youth violence in this area?
It”s very prevalent all over. It”s just not an Alabama or Columbus problem. This is happening in Birmingham, Chicago, Atlanta. It”s everywhere. It”s how they make videos that teach kids at 5 and 6 how to shoot. You walk up to some kids and the first thing they say is, “Pow! Pow!” It”s etched in their minds because of what they”ve been taught. We have to get to the place where we can find real meaning in the word of God. It will deprogram us from some of the things that the world has taught us.
What”s the solution?
It”s always going to be foundational. If the foundation is not fixed right, if it”s not built on the principles of God, that house is going to crumble every time. It”s just a matter of when. As long as we build on the right principles and teach the right things, that house will stand. All of it goes to one scripture that God gave us in the Bible. He told us in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child.” What has happened is that we stopped training. We stopped teaching. And when we stop doing that, we have all these negative influences, whether it be television, media, radio, etc. Those things now become our teaching. We really don”t take that quality time in the training of our kids. Therefore, the foundation is built on the sand.
What”s the main thing you wish kids today would understand?
All of our young people need to understand that no matter what they”re faced with, they have a choice. The last choice is ultimately theirs. No matter what life throws at them, they have a choice to do the right thing or to do the thing that”s going to bring them many years of sorrow. If we would open our hearts and our minds to take a wide look at what we”re dealing with, we may see that the enemy is trying to set us up for failure when god may be trying to set us up for greatness.