A profoundly inspiring and positive news conference was held today at the National Press Club addressing the ever-increasing street gang gun violence problem in America. No community in the country has suffered more than that of the African-American community that has seen during the COVID pandemic an ever-escalating increase in senseless shootings and killings.
In addressing the pandemic of gun violence, African-American national community leaders today announced their campaign of initiatives and programs to bring an end to the ongoing slaughter that has adversely affected so many people across the country. The group is planning to convene a Peace Summit in Washington next year bringing all the players together to put an end to gang violence.
In opening the program Dr. Rahim Jenkins, founder and CEO of the National Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (NCJJR) and a DC activist reflected on the history of the Peace and Justice Gang Summit almost 30 years ago in April 1983 in Kansas City, Missouri that brought community leaders, gang members and activists from across the country to address the then-growing issue of gun violence.
Dr. Benjamin Chavis-Icon, former NAACP president told how the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the early 1990s “declared that young black men were an endangered species” not only because of systemic racism but because of “…what we were doing to ourselves, what we are doing to one another.” Chavis-Icon went on to express that “…what goes on on the national level is a result of what goes on, on the local level” and as such, grassroot movements influence the direction society takes based on the important decisions and directions they develop as an outcome. And at that first meeting planted the seed of how this matter can be resolved in today’s world.
The greatest stride made to date is the recognition of gun violence and deaths as a public health issue and not solely as a criminal justice or a social issue. Of the 45,000 firearm deaths in the US in 2020, 62% of the victims were African Americans while 21% were White people. The number one killer of Black men ages 10-35 is homicide. Clearly, the disproportionality of these deaths has fallen hardest on Black people for a myriad of reasons. But alas gun violence in America is a problem of outrageous and senseless proportion for all. And it is preventable.
Dr. Roger Mitchell, Howard University Chair of the Pathology Department and first Black Forensic Biologist at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), eloquently related that motivating factors driving gun violence in the Black community as related to Hip-hop culture have acted ironically as a “Siren Call” to act against gun violence by chronicling what goes on in the streets.
He went on to list the five risk factors that lead to violence in communities: education, economics, housing, health care and criminal justice. “When equity across those lines takes place,” he noted, “it leads to a decrease of violence in communities.” He further related that declaring gun violence a public health issue allows for the use of a new “toolbox” that utilizes a wide variety of community resources involving funding, faith community involvement, academic research and financial resources that can be utilized to respond to the issue as an epidemic rather than criminally.
The passage of the 1996 Clinton Omnibus Spending Bill, however, with the attachment known as the Dickey Amendment by Congressman Jay Dickey (R-AR) forbade Congress from providing funds to the CDC or the National Institute of Health (NIH) in declaring gun violence a public health issue so as not to “…advocate or promote gun control.” Not declaring gun violence thusly at the behest of the National Rifle Association (NRA) effectively extinguished the ability to resolve the ongoing slaughter of young men; this since the CDC had boldy declared that gun violence was a public health issue in 1992.
The amendment’s inclusion in the federal budget then became an annual ritual moving from year to year until the March 2018 budget. It was then, in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida in which 17 people were killed, that a compromise was finally reached allowing for the study and funding of gun violence. What was left unanswered, however, was how much funding for such a study would be allowed before it constituted advocacy of “gun control” it its proponent’s eyes.
And finally, Dr. Mitchell related that “… there is no other group of individuals that can lead to the freedom of
Black men in this country than other Black men.”
The group was also reminded all the Hip-hop and Drill music poets and artists whose lyrics are based on death and destruction that “You cannot be an artist and a gangster at the same time.” While also calling on them collectively to financially support change by using their wealth gained through promoting violence in helping to bring an end to such through their influence and music with the community.
Another important plan of action is in seeking the ability to name gun manufactures as co-defendants in lawsuits to hold them accountable for facilitating the ongoing slaughter their products have wrought upon society.
Harold Ward, whose street name is “Noonie-G” a former high-ranking member of the Chicago Gangster Disciple street gang called upon Hip-hop artists about having a conscious for the violence their lyrics promote and asked them how they could be “numb” to seeing a body lying in the street because of violence. “We need your help” in resolving and ending the violence.
The news conference ended on a positive note as Noonie-G’s message when it was announced that Hip-hop promoter Russell Simmons, “The Godfather of Hip-hop” called saying that the Hip-hop community had just pledged they would be providing financial support for both the anniversary Peace Summit and ongoing support in funding to end to gun violence in America in order to save lives.
(This article has previously appeared in Nuzeink.)
Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and Nuze.ink. He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.