Imagine a city where 77 shootings occur in a single week alone. A place where mothers, fathers, grandparents and virtually everyone lives on edge fearing simply walking the streets of their own neighborhood. Well, the reality is, we don’t need to imagine anything. Right in the Big Apple last week, an astonishing 77 shootings took place throughout the city. The victims ranged in age across the board, with the youngest a 3-year-old who was shot in the leg. In some parts of the world, people worry about bombs and catastrophe from warfare; in others, they worry that they may die from starvation. Here, in the U.S., many of us think continuously about the possibility that a bullet from one of our own may take us or our loved ones out. It’s an epidemic that we’ve discussed before, but the question is, are WE doing enough?
In September of 2011, I penned an open letter to New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo imploring him to take some sort of action to combat violence. And through the years, I have addressed the issue repeatedly, whether working with grassroots organizations or meeting with family members of victims, or speaking on the dilemma on panels or right here in my weekly blog. I have been open and candid about my own personal loss to gun violence and the need for all of us to take action immediately if we care at all about our future. But I refuse to believe that the rise in violence in New York and elsewhere is happening on its own without contributing factors.
‘We call on everyone to mentor a young person, to volunteer at a soup kitchen, to read to the elderly, to help eliminate guns on our streets and to further the importance of education,” I wrote in March of 2011. Everyone knows that rates of violence and crime are directly tied to rates of employment, poverty, access to education and more. In order to curb the senseless shootings, we must work to establish better schools and job centers that help train those still looking for work. We have to get recruiters into our communities, and we must show both parents and kids that there is a possibility for upward mobility. We need to open more recreation centers and create more after-school programs so that young people can do something with their spare time. And most importantly, we have a duty to not be afraid of our kids and instead reclaim our streets.
There was a time when members of the community kept tabs on what took place on their streets. When neighbors watched each others’ children and kept them out of trouble, and when police officers actually lived in the areas that they patrol. The unfortunate thing today is that we have countless grassroots organizations doing amazing work to stop violence, but they are severely underfunded. Not only are we denied the option of community policing (as is done in other communities), but those that are risking their own lives to save us all don’t receive any assistance from city and state officials. And yet, they have the nerve to say we’re not doing anything.
For a person living in an urban area, there aren’t many options. Either they live in fear of some punk with a gun, or they fear the police that terrorize us with policies that do nothing to cease violence. But instead of giving NYPD Police Commissioner Kelly an excuse to stop & frisk every young person of color in this city repeatedly, let US take control of ourselves. Enough is enough. Please take a stand and do something today regardless of where you live. We need everyone to take action.