Stop the blame game. That’s the message of Luther Keith, the executive director of ARISE Detroit, a 400-member neighborhood advocacy organization.
“Despite the many marches, various protests and prayer vigils surrounding the issue of community homicide and violence — it persists, seemingly unabated by our actions,” says Keith.
“We’ve blamed everyone from gun makers and movie makers to city officials and law enforcement agencies, ” he states. “The only finger that hasn’t been pointed yet is the one at our selves.”
“If we want to change the perception of Detroit as the wild, wild West, we need to encourage residents and move them toward a new frontier dominated by entire communities standing up to peaceably face down criminals,” he notes.
Yes, more police officers and curtailing ownership of illegal guns is needed, according to Keith, who supports Mayor Dave Bing’s call to reinforce the value of life and discourage behaviors that support violence and reckless use of firearms.
Keith advocates that the best anti-crime programs are those that begin at home with the lessons of respect, honor and decency that demand we stop accepting violence as a way of life in our community.
“We have to stop making excuses for criminal activity and, more importantly, stop looking the other way when it occurs,” he states, even when the activity begins in our own homes, schools and neighborhoods.
All over Detroit, in groups of various kinds, people are beginning to make it clear that they are fed up with violence. It is this kind of holistic community response the must be sustained and elevated according to Keith.
To truly solve the violence piece, we need a ‘community values’ transformation — which is easier said than done.
“We have to change the mindset of our young people,” noted community activist Yusef Shakur in an ARISE Detroit! interview earlier this year. Shakur, who has seen life inside and outside the prison system, stresses the values of the people on the street are not like our values. “Violence and revenge are what they know,” he states.
Of course, teen violence is not the only problem in Detroit. Most of Detroit’s senseless killings are at the hands of adults, who have ‘beefs’ with others or simply resort to violence as a means of addressing their own personal insecurities.
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in Detroit. Keith promises ARISE Detroit! will be at the helm of a soon to be announced effort to significantly reduce crime in Detroit through improved neighborhood watch programs, recreation programs, and community economic development efforts to conflict resolution and reporting efforts.
“This is not a one man or one organization effort,” says Keith. Are you in?