I sat down to write a diary about people’s experience with gun violence in this country. I planned to ask a simple question: How many people do you know who have been killed (or injured) by gun violence? How many people have been killed (or injured) by gun violence within a 10-mile radius of your home?
But it turned into something else.
Let me start by saying that I share many of the concerns and ideas expressed here in recent weeks
What interests me, though, is supporting efforts to bring peace to urban black communities. I don’t want to talk (or think, or live with) “black-on-black”-crime, and don’t really care about statistics in this regard.
In the process of answering my own question, I realized that all the people I know, or know of, who have lost a relative or friend to gun violence, were black people (mostly youth) who were killed by other black people. That’s just the reality of my life.
My immediate neighbor has lost two children and one grandchild to gun violence over a period of about 10 years. I elaborated on that here. A while back, we were standing out on the street—my neighbor’s husband, his 8-yr old granddaughter and I—lovely summer day, I was watering the lawn—two guys come around the corner and start shooting (with handguns) into the house of a known gang-member, two doors down from mine. Another two doors down, there used to be a bar that was the site of frequent gun violence, until the owner was murdered and the place had to shut down.
Known gang-member. Known to his family, to his neighbors, to the local police. What I know about him is that—unless I get caught in the cross fire—it’s probably the cop two doors down on the other side—known to be shady as the day is long, unstable, rumors of domestic violence, lots of looney-tunes shit going on there!—is probably the less predictable threat. If anyone is likely to go-“postal” in this immediate community, he's the one! Since gangbanger neighbor knows that I know and we all know the risk he brings to the neighborhood, I can at least say to him, “Look….I’d appreciate it if you would NOT park in front of my house.” He knows exactly what I’m talking about. Or, when he and or associates let their dogs vacate on the lilacs I’ve planted in the parkway, I may whip open the front window and holler, “Hey, could you please not let your dog piss on my lilac tree?” Soon as the tags go up on the fences or garage doors in the back, we call the city to have it removed.
So, yeah, in what I’d say is a three-block radius, one “problem”—in this case, by no means a “child”. His family’s owned the property for decades, and really, he’s the only one that’s a problem. There’s not a lot anyone can do but make it clear to him and to his family that we do not approve. “Snitching” is not an option. The cops, and detectives, local aldermen know. I would not be surprised to learn that he’s in cahoots somehow with the cop at the end of the block.
The best we in these communities can do to create black on black peace in our communities is to “lead by example”. We have to be creative: Aye-Kuumba! ;-) There are neighborhood block clubs all over. Ours is not an official one, but we call ourselves “the XXrd Street ‘gated community’”: because, well, we ‘got gates!’—we have to—and we got community, amongst ourselves and extending into the blocks around us. This is the “Hood” as I know it: really cool people, most of them “gainfully employed”, most of them with long-term ties to the community, as homeowners, mostly. The “bad guys” are the exception. And most of them weren’t “born” bad. Really.
So, anyway, I don’t need to “talk” about black on black violence. It’s almost the only form of violence that hits close to my home. My own immediate family has been largely spared the trauma, but my neighbors’ haven’t, my colleagues’, my students’, my friends’. Almost everyone I know has lost at least one close friend or relative to black-on-black violence. R.I.P. t-shirts aren’t a fucking fashion statement. And what all of us want is black-on-black peace.
At the height of media focus on Trayvon Martin, like just about everyone else, the people I hang out with, the people I live with, work with, walk on the street with; my students, my colleagues, the check-out clerks at local retailers, teachers in area schools were talking about Trayvon Martin. But their concern was less the fact that a white dude shot an innocent Black kid. The bigger deal was how many other Black kids have been shot and killed by other black kids in our neighborhood this year and how there was never a run on whatever piece of clothing those kids happened to be wearing when they were shot.
As I write, the number of homicides in my city just hit 503, with the murder of “conscious” rapper, Christopher Thomas.
And that is why I would rather draw attention to, and encourage support for nationwide efforts toward black-on-black peace.
I am at the point where I do not give a rat’s ass about “white privilege”, at least not as a topic for discussion. We can talk about and support black-on-black peace efforts without understanding the mechanisms involved in “white privilege.” Anyone who has not been moved to tears, moved to compassion, to outrage, and ultimately to action by such contributions as these:
Well, then—if those pieces leave you cold--I dunno. Go play in the street or something because you’re not likely to be able to provide the kind of support or action I am inviting people to provide in this ACTION DIARY.
The decision to write about black on black peace efforts was inspired in part by this comment thread which led me to a fairly recent Ta-Nehisi Coates piece:
I decided to follow-up on some of the links Mr. Coates provides. I know or at least know of many of these people, projects, efforts in my city; many of them are right in my neighborhood. I was unaware of others. I have not done any extensive “vetting”—just a little googling. I have not proceeded systematically and this list is by no means exhaustive, though I have added links to a number of projects that came to mind off the top of my head.
I put it out there as a model and an inspiration to others.
Want to honor the Sandy Hook victims? Commit 26 Creative Acts of Kwanzaa today (and/or tomorrow. Heck, it's even OK if it takes you a minute to get around to it). Whether you reach out to one of the organizations/efforts listed below, whether you decide to do a diary on similar efforts in your own city. Whatever. As the community group Occupy the Hood so eloquently (;-)) states: Do. Some. Shit.
I'm not proposing this as an alternative to the fight for a Marshall Plan or to efforts to oppose, expose, and decompose white privilege, racism, and all the other actions. I'm suggesting this should be a piece of the bigger puzzle.
But DailyKos folks are good at getting behind these kinds of things, and impacting public opinion to the extent that of receiving "honorable mention" in the strangest of places....
So c'mon, let's commit some creative acts of Kwanzaa on this Day of Kuumba.