For the last 14 years, Rev. Nicholas Hood III, pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ, has called on residents of Southeast Michigan to not use guns to commemorate the arrival of the new year.
Hood, working in partnership with Citizens for the New Millennium, Health Alliance Plan (HAP) and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, wants residents of Detroit and Wayne County to celebrate the new year without any injuries from gunfire.
He began “Ring in the New Year” with a Bell Campaign in 1997 after a Detroit grandmother, Sandra Latham, was killed in her dining room by a stray bullet.
The campaign got under way on Dec. 26, and there will be a press conference on Dec. 29.
Hood said he hopes this year is the last one in which he will need to do this, adding that what keeps him focused are reports that it’s like a war zone in some neighborhoods.
He said the amount of gunfire varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. In his own neighborhood on the city’s east side, gunfire seems to have been reduced to between midnight and 1 a.m., while in other areas it still starts early and goes on nearly all night.
“Community education does make a difference,” Hood said of the lessons he’s learned from this campaign over the years.
“Most of the people who shoot are law- abiding good citizens, who have no intention of hurting anybody,” Hood said, adding that Detroit isn’t the only city where this happens. He said someone from Philadelphia told him he grew up with gunfire on New Year’s Eve.
For Hood, the most persuasive argument against firing off a gun on New Year’s Eve is that sometimes people get killed. While that hasn’t happened in Detroit since 1997, Hood emphasized that while that’s due in part to community education, it also comes down to luck.
He also noted that while 1997 may seem like a long time ago to a lot of people, that’s not the case for the family of Sandra Latham. Her daughter, Charlotte Jackson Bell, will represent the family at the press conference.
This year, HAP has joined the campaign as a corporate sponsor. In a press release, Bill Alvin, president and chief executive officer, said he, “applauds Rev. Hood for bringing attention to the important issue of firearm safety, and for continuing to make this a priority year after year.”
Maureen Stapleton, owner of Community Enterprises LLC, is this year’s co-chair. Honorary co-chairs are Wayne County Sherriff Benny Napoleon, Mayor Dave Bing and Police Chief Ralph Godbee.