As of Aug. 30, 258 people have been slain in Philadelphia, raising the homicide rate. The “Philadelphia Inquirer” reports that 80 percent of the city’s homicide victims were black and 89 percent were male. Handguns were used 82 percent of the time and young people here, ages 18 to 24, comprise the majority of gun violence victims.
Trying to combat this growing problem, Mayor John Street told the city’s youth to “lay down your weapons … the city is going to hire 200 new police officers, along with a new 46-member police unit deployed on nights and weekends in areas of high gun violence.” But Mayor Street also insisted that “violence is not just a police matter” and promised to increase social services geared toward youth.
Putting more police officers on the street will do nothing to prevent the proliferation of crimes committed by young black men. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson told the “Inquirer” that “the problems presented by gun violence are much more complex and need far-reaching efforts that go beyond increasing the size of the force or arresting more suspects.”
There is no single intervention that will fix this plight. What must take place is a reformulation of what it means to be a family within the black community. First, take a look at the environment here.
When you look at these neighborhoods, you see debris everywhere. My mother told me as a child, “If you hang with trash, you will become trash.” If you live in negativity, it can consume your being. Yes, blacks have not always been dealt the best hand.
Yes, we live in an institutionally racist society.
But no, whites are not the ones dropping trash in front of our homes and in our playgrounds.
The black churches must invest more time and energy into the upkeep of their communities. We preach so much prosperity
and abundance; we think they are the equivalent to a Bentley and a mansion rather than the foundation of a physically, mentally and spiritually balanced life on earth.
The black family needs much improvement.
We witness too many children being physically and verbally abused at young ages. The anger that many of these young people harbor often stems from their earliest experiences.
As a result, the feeling of hopelessness sets in before they are given an opportunity to define themselves in the world.
The education of young black children must be improved.
Not too long ago, we were fighting for the right to receive a decent education, and now we do not even educate ourselves.
Too many young black children cannot read. The generations after the Civil-Rights Movement have failed us by not teaching and mentoring a diligence and hunger for knowledge.
The black community needs to take charge of its people and promote change. In order to combat the violence and youth’s cries for help, we need to wake up and penetrate their minds through mentorship and love.
Those few seconds it takes to pull a trigger can be substituted for a comforting conversation and a hug.
Diona Fay Howard can be reached at Diona.firstname.lastname@example.org.