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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  

Race and Privilege in America

White Privilege and Sandy Hook

Celebrating the Prince of Peace in the Land of Guns

Whenever a Black Kid Gets Shot

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:

The Fear of Young Black Men

Hey America Can You Quit Killing our (Usually) Innocent Children

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:

Why Don't Black People Protest 'Black-on-Black Violence'?

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.

Mothers Against Murderers Anonymous

The Deborah Movement

Black Star Project

Cure Violence

Tio Hardiman, Director of Ceasefire

The Interrupters

Black Youth Project

Corey Brooks, Chicago Magazine

Project Hood: Helping Others Obtain Destiny

Kids Off the Block

Basketball Tournament for Peace

 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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks for the inside look (8+ / 0-)

    for those of us here who don't live in the 'hood, it's welcome information on the quality of community people of culture have even in circumstances of grave danger

    if it weren't for that, all the cities/suburbs would be on fire

    and rightly so

  •  Argh. Isabelle, your comment has (7+ / 0-)

    disappeared from my screen.

    Site going buggy again? Dunno.

    At any rate, there is much richness in this community (and I presume others like it).

    Without having the time to provide links, just from following the daily news, I personally think Rahm Emmanuel and many others (even nationwide?) have simply thrown their hands up in despair (and in his case, I do believe it is out of despair, not that he doesn't care: he just doesn't see a solution)...they have seriously given up on attempting to revive these communities.

    Tearing down board ups--even exquisite old building that could theoretically be placed under historical preservation, revitalized, rehabilitated, but no: tear them down!

    That is just one example among many. It's the people at the grass roots level that are going to make the change--but you've also got to give them encouragement/hope of success.

    "They" have given up on the Hood. I say, Fix the Hood.

    The people on the ground are active. People need to know about their efforts and support them--be creative in how that support goes down.

  •  I live in the same city. No other city matches (6+ / 0-)

    us, apparently, in this statistic, 503.

    I wish I had suggestions, so I am going to think about this for a while.

    •  Well, the list of organizations/projects (6+ / 0-)

      I put together is totally just a fraction of what I know is out there.

      You could explore others--and in other areas--Rogers Park, West Side--most of these are South Side links. A lot of them have paypal, etc. set up to receive contribs. Even small amounts help, less for the cash impact, and more for the acknowledgment.

      It's really even just about putting the word out that these things are going on.

      That's why I'd rather speak in terms of "black-on-black"-peace, or "black-on-black"-LOVE. There's a lot of it out there!

      •  I live in Boystown (East Lakeview). I will look (5+ / 0-)

        and do something. I don't know if being white is a drawback but I will act.

        •  People have to be honest about this shit (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          43north, Liberal Granny, glorificus

          Is being white a drawback? Of course it is. But you can't generalize, either. It's often complicated.

          As Ameena Matthews--one of CEASEFIRE'S "interrupters" points out--people who obviously look like "outsiders" are not going to be as effective as "peace forces" 'on the ground.'  Given what we know about the history of race relations in this country, is that any wonder?

          Support does not necessarily have to include hands-on work in these communities--where it may be unproductive, even counterproductive.

          But let's talk about CEASEFIRE. I know some CEASEFIRE folk: one of the things they do is to actually sit down with warring/rival gangmembers and literally STOP THE VIOLENCE before it starts. That is some brave-ass shit.

          Most of our strategies (mine included) include simply avoiding the "problem people" (don't know how else to put it, but "bangers" would be inaccurate, because they aren't all  gangbangers). So any individual or group that is actually intervening in conflict and violent crime must be commended, and supported. Indeed, they risk their lives.

          OK. So CEASEFIRE and its contract with the city has come under fire of late, partly because some of the people on their payroll are "ex-felons". Considering the nature of the work, I'd almost consider that a qualification, especially when "to be charged with a felony, crack users needed to possess only 5 grams of the drug to be sentenced with the same charge that powder cocaine users needed to be caught with  (500 grams)."

          Have you, or  ever seen 500 grams of cocaine? Do you know how much that is? It's a LOT.

          And 5 grams of crack: that's NOT a lot. Study after study confirms that users/buyers/sellers of powder cocaine are predominately white, and of crack, predominately black.

          The laws pertaining to these two otherwise non-violent offenses have been racially biased, beginning with Nixon's Rockefeller drug laws, later attached to mandatory sentencing laws that put a lot of young black males in prison for a very long time.  Even with reforms to the laws in 2010 the damage to the community has been done, and more recent relaxation of marijuana possession laws.

          In public perception, the word "felon" almost always connotes some sort of violent offender, especially when qualified by the word "black".

          So, one of CEASEFIRE's employees was busted with $12 worth of marijuana. Do you know what $12 worth of marijuana looks like? It's probably less than a waitress might wipe off a table in Amsterdam after the guests to the cafe left.

          10 grams of crack ? Well, what the hell? It certainly should not be a felony that obliterates any fucking chance ever of actually having a life (literally and figuratively).

          This is what the failed war on drugs looks like. It's really been and continues to be a war on the Hood. And on black males in the hood, more specifically.

          A group like CEASEFIRE that is actually having an impact gets dragged through the dirt in the public eye and the press for hiring "ex-felons" scary, violent offenders, young and black and brown and furthermore, because
          no significant success stories.

          Read further into the article and you find that what it really boils down to is that emails sent by CEASEFIRE to the city went unanswered.

          In this way, the group is vilified in the press and the public eye, the image of the Hood as some crime-ridden, corrupt, unsalvageable place, with violent thugs --felons!--on every corner. When really, the most serious offense most people I know have committed are speeding tickets and/or failure to pay parking tickets (mostly because they didn't have the money!). But I also  know some "ex-felons" who've been criminalized, felonized, by these minor, non-violent, mostly economically motivated (by necessity) "felony offenses" as a result of the War on the Hood.

          So even taking the time to understand what's often behind these portrayals of young black men as "(ex)-felons" in the public and the press is important. Ex-felon? What kind of ex-felon? Is the question you have to ask.

          And if it turns out that the felony is what I would call a "fatality of the drug war in the making"--that is, the case of some young person having sold some crack, or committed some other economically motivated "crime", then, under mandatory sentencing spent I don't know how many years in prison, and attempts to succeed legitimately in a society where he is marked as an "ex-felon": that is a high-potential "fatality in the war on drugs".

          What do we, as a society, expect these men-now grown, adult black males, marked as felons (which is immediately translated into either potentially violent, or a potential thief) do? How are they to get on their feet? How?

          So maybe the next time you see or hear about a group like CEASEFIRE getting dragged through the dirt, write a letter to the editor, or the Mayor--send a copy to the group. I do think those kinds of efforts matter--even if they have no immediate political impact, letting the organization know that you see and appreciate what they are doing is always helpful....

          So anyway, sorry this got so long, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

          Thanks for reading and discussing.

          •  Thank you. I didn't know about CEASEFIRE but (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            grumpelstillchen, glorificus

            will learn about it. Maybe they can use some help. I live on my social security check so giving money is a sometime thing for me. I am not a lawyer, so helping in that way is out.

            I am writing a diary about criminal court in Chicago, just my exposure to it. In '08 in Arizona I met a number of young black men here and there and quite a number had been in jail or were on probation. I was able to speak with them as a grandmother and they actually listened. I don't know if I helped or not because I am now back in Chicago.

            I don't know exactly what I can do to help, but I will figure it out and act. I thank you so much for your guidance and information. I know my white face is initially off-putting but if a man stops to listen, they hear the respect in my voice and I am perceived then as a person.

            I don't know what I will do yet, but I will do something.

            •  thanks, Liberal Granny, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              glorificus, Liberal Granny

              fwiw: most YOUNG people I know do not give a damn what color you are. People appreciate sincerity, authenticity--and most young people I know are sensitive about racial prejudice of all kinds; they do not want to be "haters".

              I sometimes think a zip code says more about a person than skin color! ;-) Boystown is a pretty cool place.

              Damn, there was another group I'd wanted to mention, but can't put my finger on the name--will probably occur to me as soon as I hit post.

              You'll figure it out. Tutoring is another much needed thing.

              •  "fwiw"? What does it mean? I hope you think of (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                the other group name. I live in Boystown by a kind of luck. CHA sent me here when I applied for an apartment. I am very happy to be here, in the midst of things.

                I do get some education from time to time, from another young man who is a guard here. He brought up what he thinks is the difference between "black" and "African American," saying AA is a name preferred by educated blacks, while black is a street understanding. Haven't had a chance to go into depth with that yet, but he's intelligent and has a great deal to offer the world.

                I think you're right about young people not caring so much about skin color but initially every young person I meet is initially wary. They tend not to stay that way long with me, though. I believe if you give respect, you get respect. It's always worked with me.

                •  FWIW= for what it's worth (internet slang) (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Liberal Granny
                  They tend not to stay that way long with me, though. I believe if you give respect, you get respect. It's always worked with me.
                  Of course young people are wary. But they're pretty quick about figuring out who's for real and who's not. ;-)

                  Oh, and the other thing about "whiteness": it can also be an "advantage", politically and in policy terms, because everyone knows nothing happens till white folks start talking about it and/or raising hell about. Yep, that's a function of white privilege. I say, use it. Don't waste your time getting white people to bow their heads in shame or what.ever.

                  I am definitely an "by EVERY means necessary" kind of person! :)

                  •  I actually did use my skin pigment when I went (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    to "stand up" for my friend when he was arrested for not turning on his turn signal while parking.

                    I've always believed we never give up the weapons like skin pigment and gender until the world has been reformed. In feminism, I used to tell young women that the world will notice their gender so don't try to mask it with navy blue pantsuits and stuff.

                    Flaunt your children so the powers that be start talking about their kids and change some rules.

        •  PS. Expungement. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          43north, Liberal Granny, glorificus

          As it now occurs to me....these potential "fatalities of the drug war/s" as described above would benefit greatly from expungement of the criminal record.
          I don't know the modalities of that. But I do know quite a few young guys who are perfectly good people who got caught up in that PIC/school to prison/ whatever you want to call it crap, have served time, or probation, or whatever, and now cannot get on with their lives because they are burdened with a criminal record.

          That shit has to change. Those criminal records--especially FELONIES for small amount of crack cocaine--need to be automatically wiped out, so that they people who fell through the crack (!) can get on with their lives--which is all anyone I know who is in that position sincerely wants to do!

          I don't know what the legal status on all that is. But lawyers doing pro bono expungement work would seem like a very productive contribution!

          •  Felons, and the Gun Control Act of 1968 (3+ / 0-)

            Part 1, cocaine math:

            500 grams is 1/2 Kilo, 1.1 pounds.  
            For the unskilled: go to the store, ask where the "Confectioners Sugar" is, look for a 1 pound bag and a 2 pound bag.

            You're now holding roughly 500 grams and a Kilo of cocaine.

            Look-up.  There's a vial of Red Hots, the little candies you decorate cookies with nearby.  There's your 5 grams of Rock.

            Look down.  Look up.  There ya go.

            The GCA '68 blanket-violated every convicted Felon.

            You could be as non-violent as Doctor King, M. Gandhi, or Siddhartha Gautama himself - no gun for you, as you're a Felon.

            That law was written by a northern White Senator, who feared his minority-filled, working poor cities would listen too closely to the words and works of Elijah Mohammed and Malcolm X.  Emulate too closely the words and works of Eldridge Cleaver and Bobby Seale.

            So the same white people who wrote checks to the SCLC and CORE, also wrote checks to Senator Dodd of Connecticut, and passed - with NRA-cooperation, the Gun Control Act of 1968.
            Much to the joy of the Johnson Administration, and outright glee of the Dixiecrats.

            If you were white, violent as hell, and never convicted of a violent felony - go in son, get yourself a gun.
            Stabbed a negro?  Get a gun.  Beat a negro?  Get a gun.
            Burn-out a negro-lovin' northern carpetbagger?  Well, it's not like you're convicted of a Felony now is it.  Get a gun.
            Slap your wife and kids around?  Hell she needed it.
            Get a gun.
            Rape a negro?  Well, you know she wanted it.  Get a gun... it's not like you committed a crime.

            Then there's the WWB, DWB, LWB and JBB - Just Being Black.
            All Felonies.
            No gun for you.  Forever.

            •  More importantly, imo, no job for you (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Liberal Granny, glorificus, 43north

              no vote for you, no loan for you, certainly not an ounce of respect or compassion for you.

              Guns? Almost everyone I know wants to see fewer guns, not more.

              Almost everyone I know who's lost someone or been injured by gun violence in this community would rather there be NO guns. Here. None.

              Don't know how many times I've heard it, and continue to hear it: we've got to get rid of the fucking GUNS. That's what "my people" say, and if they're the "exception", dunno? But it's what they say.

              •  grumpelstillchen, it may be generational (0+ / 0-)

                I'm working towards my 6th decade, and it may be my age group saw disenfranchisement of LEGAL gun ownership as a problem.
                They despised having to go-around the law, just to not roll-over and be dead.
                They despised supporting the very source of guns for the malcontents, while having no legal means of resisting predation - regardless of the color of the predator.

                To your no vote, no job, no loan, no housing, no health care, no-unemployment, no welfare... oh, the list is long.

                Your job as a Felon is to either return to prison, or die.
                Now get with it.  Make it snappy.  We've no room for you at the inn.

                •  Right. And in this day and age (I'm your (0+ / 0-)

                  generation), the guns are a problem. Most people my age, and others in the generation of their children, hell, we see that the kids (and by that, let's say 21 on down), don't have the maturity or the WISDOM for responsible gun ownership.

                  Whether they are "fresh" or have fallen through the crack/s in the war on drugs...I say focus on changing the laws so these folks at least have a shot at the basics: job, vote, absence of social stigma attached to felony record, especially if the "felony" is a non-violence drug issue.

                  Most people in my community agree: the right to be armed does not have top priority.

                  Right to jobs.
                  To vote.
                  To get an education.
                  Loans? Like for a house, or a vehicle.
                  then maybe the right to own a  gun.

            •  oh and thank you on the "Visuals" w re (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              glorificus, 43north

              difference between 5 g and 500 g of crack/vs/coke.

              Very useful.

          •  I am actually learning about that now. I have (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            glorificus, grumpelstillchen

            spoken with my state rep about one young man in particular and in that process will learn more. There is so much weighing young black men down most don't get a chance to just live and be well. I know that from experience. I can't just sit here and cry about it so I am trying to act and I will learn about expunging records.

  •  This is going to be a snark. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012

    by bontemps2012 on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 03:46:39 PM PST

    •  Allen West's new project: "Glocks For Trayvon" (2+ / 0-)

      He's NRA's new token vice-president.

      Giving 9-mm semi-autos to every Black teenager in Florida !!

      Get them concealed-carry permits. Then they can volunteer for security details at the high schools.

      And get those corn chips home from the 7-11s !!

      "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012

      by bontemps2012 on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 03:52:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  flamin hots, not corn chips. (5+ / 0-)

        thanks for the snark warning. Don't know that I can actually laugh at it, but the thought of an employment program that would hire black males as security guards in schools (ala NRA) has certainly crossed my mind.

        All but one of the security guards I know--and most of them do work in schools, or park districts-- are Black, and I hold them all in very high regard.

        I've considered inviting some of them in as "guest lecturers" in my classes--especially after Gingrich's bullshit line about "no black role models". Bullshit.

        These guys actually have a lot to teach young black men. And they do. I know--we talk about it. They are as important to the learning environment--whether at middle school, high school, early college level--as faculty.

        Very much unsung heroes. It's what I meant when I said in a comment that I don't really know any black men who are not somehow engaged in the process of promoting black on black peace.

      •  Oh the other thing: is the hoodie Kevlar? (4+ / 0-)

        would certainly be a requirement.

  •  I was looking for (3+ / 0-)

    links related to a midnight basketball program we used to have here in the Washington, DC, area (, and I found a link about a related program in Chicago (  Apparently this type of program spread to many cities. Do you know if it was successful, and whether it's still going?

    Pe'Sla isn't safe until the loan is paid off. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe could use some help with that.

    by Kay Observer2 on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 06:44:09 PM PST

    •  Not sure about that. 1989 is going pretty far (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      glorificus, Kay Observer2

      back, but what I took from that link was this quote:

      The image of gang members standing around on the street corner uninterested in anything but trouble is not accurate, Ms. Peoples said.

      ''Some of the kids in gangs have come to us looking for employment,'' she said. ''The stereotype isn't totally true.''

      The Bulls have recently been doing something similar, as per the link I posted above.

      A lot of the drug activity, and even gang activity really has to be taken out of the context of "criminal behavior" and seen as an often last-ditch, desperate shot at EMPLOYMENT.

      The drug laws mentioned above and given so many young people "felony" records keeps them from getting jobs. A sure fire guarantee for recidivism.

  •  Best wishes for much success with this! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    **Your beliefs don't make you a better person, your behavior does** h/t Clytemnestra/Victoria Jackson

    by glorificus on Tue Jan 01, 2013 at 06:29:44 AM PST

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