Memorial to the Lost

Memorial to the Lost
at Chester Eastside Ministries

Sunday, August 7, 2016

In yesterday's New York Times: Black Activists Don't Ignore Crime

IT has become a standard conservative talking point: Black activists focus on police brutality but ignore violent crime in black neighborhoods. Last month Rudy Giuliani said on Fox News: “If they meant ‘Black Lives Matter,’ they would be doing something about the way in which the vast majority of blacks are killed in America, which is by other blacks.”
Claims like Mr. Giuliani’s aren’t just offensive or misplaced — they’re demonstrably wrong. While Black Lives Matter receives deserved attention, countless grass-roots organizations — many of which were founded by bereaved black women — are doing remarkable work to prevent and reduce crime. They protest violence, testify at city council hearings, press for gun-control reform and collaborate with politicians, faith-based organizations and, yes, even the police.
I spent 20 years studying anti-crime politics — observing community meetings, interviewing lawmakers and activists and analyzing city council hearings about crime. I found groups organizing on everything from “barking dogs to shootouts,” as one legislative aide told me. Their activism was impossible to miss.
But this local organizing goes largely unnoticed by politicians, scholars and the news media, all of which focus instead on large national groups with big budgets and expensive lobbyists.
In Philadelphia alone, there were at least 50 local organizations involved in anti-crime politics in the early 2000s. Mothers in Charge, for example, was started in 2003 by Dorothy Johnson-Speight after her son, Khaaliq Jabbar Johnson, 24, was killed in an argument over a parking spot. One of the organization’s main goals is for Congress to declare homicide a public health crisis.
“We continue to support any bills that can help take the guns off the street,” Ms. Johnson-Speight said at a 2004 City Council hearing on gun violence. “We are working very hard with all faith-based initiatives, with the community, churches, other organizations.”
Although Mothers in Charge is relatively small, it has hosted national conferences on the costs of violence; held rallies at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington; and has appeared frequently in local news media like ThePhiladelphia Inquirer. It has grown into a national organization, opening chapters in Los Angeles, St. Louis and other cities.

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