For Heaven’s sake do something!
Do something about the epidemic of homicides killing more Americans daily than deaths of American soldiers on battlefields in long running wars in foreign lands.
For Heaven’s Sake is not just a phrase applicable to this circumstance.
Last Wednesday in Chicago a seven-year-old girl named Heaven Sutton was fatally shot as she worked alongside her mother selling cold drinks and candy on an inner-city street.
From New Year’s Day 2012 to the June 27 murder of Heaven, 253 murders struck Chicago, a surge in homicides nearly 38 percent higher than the same period last year.
This epidemic of homicides is not exclusive to Chicago, the city that the president of the United States calls home and the city where the president’s former chief of staff serves as mayor.
New Orleans, from January to July, logged 87 homicides.
In Omaha, Neb., 16 people were murdered from January to mid-June, the youngest victim being 15 years old.
In Seattle, from January to May’s end 21 murders raked that West Coast city, a number exceeding all murders there in 2011.
Philadelphia’s logged 185 murders in 2012, according to the July 1 total posted on the Philadelphia Police Department’s website.
“What’s also important to understand about Philly is that we’re averaging 1,600-plus [non-fatal] shootings per year,” anti-violence activist Bilal Qayyum said. “In America every week there are 124 murders, nearly 18 per day.”
New York City experienced 4,161 murders from 2003-2011.
That number of murders in NYC is 314 less than the death toll for America soldiers during the Iraq War, that lie-based occupation launched by former President George Bush that “officially” lasted during the same 2003-2011 time period.
This problem of murderous misery roiling America urban streets seemingly is not on the “radar screen” of national political leaders.
The presumptive presidential candidates for the two major parties — President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — parry on the economy and promised improvements but remain dead silent on solutions to the violence snatching innocent lives across America like little Heaven Sutton.
The conservative cackle controlling the U.S. Congress seemingly is more concerned with clobbering Obama and creating rights for the unborn than taking steps to secure a right-to-life for children who are fearful of the violent conditions they endure daily.
News reports from Chicago stated that Heaven Sutton often begged her mother to move to escape the rampant violence.
Is that cold shoulder congressional conservatives and too many liberals give to homicidal urban violence a consequence of the complexion of the victims?
In NYC, 61 percent of those 2003-2011 4,000-plus murders were Black men, with Hispanics accounting for 27 percent.
Bilal Qayyum, head of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, said that in Philadelphia Black males accounted for 2,765 of the 3,785 murders between 2001 and 2010.
Chicago police arrested a suspect in the Heaven Sutton murder thanks to eyewitnesses. Yet arresting individual killers does not change the climate churning out criminals.
Grassroots folks are stepping up to confront America’s epidemic of violence and related issues while too many politicians piddle.
Philadelphia’s Qayyum is spear-heading a national conference in August to bring anti-violence activists nationwide to Philadelphia for tackling black-on-black violence.
“We hope this conference will be the beginning of a national movement around this issue. We have to find models that can be adapted to each city. One program will not work everywhere,” Qayyum said.
The three goals of this conference (8/10-12) that will host activists from NYC to Seattle are: (1) create a national movement to address the black-on-black violence epidemic; (2) create a nationwide network of groups that work on anti-violence; and, (3) provide ‘best practices’ of successful anti-violence strategies.
“In Philadelphia during the 1970s we eliminated murders from gang violence so concerted approaches can be successful,” Qayyum said.
In the 1970s federal government funded public-service jobs were available as an inducement for warring gang members, a pay-check producing option that Qayyum concedes is not available in today’s recession weathered America.
Qayyum also concedes that there are no easy answers to this homicide problem that is impacted by an array of factors including massive unemployment, family breakdowns, lost hope and institutional racism.
“In the neighborhoods with a high number of shootings there is also high unemployment, high-poverty and mothers raising families without fathers. The environment is creating the monsters who act out with violence,” Qayyum said.
Governmental leaders find money when they want, like $55-million to fund the May NATO summit in Chicago, but cry broke on curing urban ills.
“People with jobs are less likely to create problems…Fewer guns mean fewer homicides.”
Qayyum is committed that this scheduled conference will be light on rhetoric and heavy on developing action.
“People will leave this conference with recommendations to take home and implement,” Qayyum said.
After the conference, Qayyum said, there will be constant monitoring to determine successes and failures to retool to accomplish the ultimate goal of significantly reducing violence in black communities.
Last week a group of activists met in Camden to plan a march from that violence plagued city to Trenton, New Jersey’s capital, in early August.
Daryl Brooks, a Trenton activist who attended that Camden meeting, said, “One of the things we are pushing for is the need for mandatory anti-violence education in schools and juvenile detention facilities.”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship program.