Residents and law enforcement must continue work to break the cycle of violence in city neighborhoods
The killers don’t care. They don’t care about our tears; they don’t care about our pleas and exhortations. They don’t care about marches, protests, prayers, peace vigils or editorials.
They don’t care about you.
But we, as a community, as mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues, we MUST CARE! To do less, to become numb to the senseless violence, to throw our hands up and say “what’s the use,” makes us almost as crass and unfeeling as the misguided, heartless individuals who continue to prey on our community.
Myself, and so many others, have written about these senseless tragedies so many times.
That’s what crossed my mind as I stood in a crowd of mourners gathered a little over month ago at the east side site where Anthony Tolson, a 33-year-old musician and aspiring minister, was carjacked and killed on Christmas Eve.
It was heartbreaking as family and friends recalled what Tolson, a father of three young children, meant to so many. His SUV, since recovered after it was burned, was filled with Christmas presents for his kids. Of course the callous men who waylaid him, who have now been arrested by police, couldn’t have cared less.
I recognized some of the same faces and people who have been on the battlefield in this fight against neighborhood crime for years, Minister Malik Shabazz, Barry Ross, Keith Bennett, Teferi Brent and so many others.
Candles were lit. Prayers were said. Rev. David Bullock hit the right themes, calling for prayers for the family and, yes, even prayers for the killers and that justice be done.
But he also called for this, which some may view as politically incorrect. While supporting the “Black Lives Matter,” movement, he called for some of that fire, fervor and passion to be put into the effort to address the toll of African Americans killing African Americans.
The issues are not mutually exclusive but connected and we should have as much outrage at community homicides as we do at unjust homicides by law enforcement.
Shouts came from the crowd.
“This has got to stop!”
“Enough is enough!”
“We’ve got to do something!”
“It’s time to step up!”
And even as I still reflected, there were fresh news reports of a seven-year old girl, shot and killed as a result of a dispute between feuding adults. A few weeks earlier a 91-year-old man was beaten and killed in his home and a 17-year-old neighbor was charged with his murder.
Then there was the veteran Detroit firefighter found murdered in his home.
We can’t take solace in the fact that overall crime is down in Detroit in the past year. For all we have done, as I have written in the past, we have do more and we have to do better.
We have been hard at work at this with Detroit Police working with federal authorities, including the Detroit One initiative out of the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s office.
The newly reenergized Detroit Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, headed by Andrew McCarthy, has been putting a coalition of church groups together along with scores of other faith-based efforts, including Neighborhood Peace Walks supported by Black Family Development. Bishop Edgar Vann of Second Ebenezer Church is also mobilizing local pastors in a renewed effort to attack neighborhood crime.
As I have often said, outrage is not enough. We have to organize, create more block clubs, more neighborhood patrols, more safety zones for our children.
As has been said before, we need to get illegal guns off the street, bust the drug houses, continue to board up and tear down blighted homes and buildings that are breeding grounds for crime.
But that is not enough.
As a society, must do more to reject the glorification of violence, shootings and terror in all of its forms, a glorification that thrives on money made from movies, television, video games or on the internet.
Sometimes I think all of this, by some, is nothing more than Crocodile tears. Deploring violence on one hand, while happily collecting any money that comes along with its promotion. And some of us are part of this scenario because we happily patronize the violence as long as it entertains us.
Changing the culture of violence cannot be done by one organization, one pastor, one church, or one politician. We all need to be part of the solution. The bad guys need to know there is no community refuge for them, no safe haven in a “no snitch” culture. I don’t have a problem with snitching, telling, manipulating or embarrassing if it will save lives.
There are too many wonderful people, too many great things, too many inspiring things about Detroit to let our attempts at revitalization be thwarted by miscreants who have no values.
Yes, there is plenty of economic distress in our neighborhoods and we do need more jobs and more opportunity. But that is not an excuse for taking the life of Anthony Tolson or anyone else.
So let’s continue to reach out to our brothers and sisters, to connect with programs and people, to look out for our children and our senior citizens.
No, it won’t be easy and there is no guarantee bad things won’t happen at times. But giving up is not an option.
So all you gangstas, carjackers, and home invaders sleep lightly. We, as a community, are coming after you.
YOU CAN NOT WIN!
We won’t let you.
Luther Keith is executive director of ARISE Detroit!, a nonprofit coalition of more than 400 organizations promoting volunteerism, community activism and positive media images to create a better Detroit.