This weekend in New York City, 26 people were shot. Six of them were killed. They were young, and they were minorities. And now, may those who died rest in peace. But what does the future hold for those who live? What will this violence lead to? Will it lead to a life consumed by violence or revenge? Or will it lead to a life consumed with the hope of changing the paradigm?

When we see a weekend fraught with hate, rage, anger and death, who do we blame? Whose responsibility is it to fix the problems that plague our city, our neighborhoods and our country?

We always want to pass the buck. It is the fault of the system. It is the fault of the schools. It is the fault of the parents. We go on and on blaming everyone for the ills that confront us every day. But the fact is that the fault lies within every one of us: parent, teacher, friend, neighbor, aunt, police officer, principal, mayor and the list goes on. The issues that happen to our youth do not happen in a silo or in a vacuum. And they clearly do not happen overnight.

We have all been a party to the dismantling of our schools, the incarceration of our youth and the negligence of all of us when it comes to taking care of the youth in our communities. We need to do a better job. We all need to participate and get our arms around this problem.

Firstly, we need to vote. We need to elect those who will make sure that the programs that work to curb violence in our communities are funded and that there are summer jobs and access to services for our youth in need, particularly those at risk.

Then, when they are elected, we must hold their feet to the fire and make sure that they keep their promises to make our communities safer.

Next, we have to make sure the folks who we put in their administrations care about our community and see us as humans, not as toys to play roulette with in upstate communities. You know the drill: the more prisoners from downstate, the more jobs for upstate.

Next, as parents and educators and business people, we need to invest in our children by investing in our schools. A recent ad from the United Negro College Fund has been updated, and while it continues to declare that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, it now adds that it’s “a wonderful thing to invest in.” And that investment need not be monetary–although that would be nice–but it must be sincere. We as parents must become part of the system to ensure that our children learn and grow while in school. We must make sure they come out prepared to face the world and the challenges ahead. We must prepare them for a future free from the fear of violence; we must prepare them to succeed.

If we work together–and we all know that there are those who would hate to see us accomplish this–we can create a bright future for our youth, but we must start now. We must start today. We can’t expect someone else to do it for us, because as we have seen, no one will. Let’s make it our business to save our children now.