By Luther Keith, Executive Director, ARISE Detroit!
Editorials don’t stop people from killing people.
That’s why the reaction of Detroiters, along with law enforcement agencies, to the latest senseless shooting death is so important. We should NEVER accept violence as a way of life in our community.
We should not make apologies for it. We should not look the other way when it happens.
We should not make excuses for the criminals who are raping and thugging our mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children and other loved ones.
While all lives are important, the shooting death of nine month-old Delric Miller IV when his family’s home was sprayed by gunfire -following the equally tragic shooting of a 12-year-old Kade’jah Davis-was particularly heinous.
Children truly are our future. They are our treasures, our gems, and must be protected at all costs.
Kudos to the Detroit 300, leaders Raphael Johnson, Angelo Henderson, and the scores of other hit-the-street volunteers who have vowed to patrol in search of the killer. And law enforcement has weighed with Detroit police collaborating with the FBI, the bureaus of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department.
Rewards have been offered through the Crime Stoppers program. Somebody knows who did it and somebody needs to talk.
To be sure, many Detroiters are outraged by crime. But outrage is not enough. Work must follow the outrage.
All over Detroit, in groups of various kinds, churches and others, people are making it clear that they are fed up with the violence. It is the kind of holistic community response that must be sustained and elevated.
But understand this – we may be fed up but the bad guys are not. The bad guys do not take days off and we should not either.
Yes, Detroiters are outraged.
In the past month, more than 800 people turned out for a Detroit 300 anti-crime forum. Longtime funeral home operator O’Neil Swanson led a motorcade of 20 hearses through the city to highlight the toll crime is taking on our young people.
For nearly a year, Detroit Pastor Ovella Andreas has promoted the 22nd of every month as a Day of Peace and Healing in Detroit, holding demonstrations and programs against violence in churches and community centers throughout Metro Detroit.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Police Chief Ralph Godbee recently hosted an anti-youth violence basketball game between Detroit police officers and young people. As part of that experience, the young people were counseled on doing the right thing and making the right choices.
An Oak Park woman, Ingrid Hatcher, has even taken to making random phone calls to Metro Detroit homes urging whoever answers the phone to refrain from using violence.
Yet, the violence continues, though overall crime is down in Detroit.
That is all the more reason to redouble our efforts and renew our commitment to make all neighborhoods safe. Detroit has many wonderful assets and of late has gained a good dose of positive national publicity.
But to truly solve the violence piece, we need a “community values” transformation. This is much easier said than done. Gun violence is not just a Detroit problem or an urban problem. It is an American problem.
“We have to change the mindset of the young people,” said community activist Yusef Shakur, who has seen life inside and outside the prison system. “The values of the people on the street are not like your values. Violence and revenge are what they know.”
Raphael Johnson of Detroit 300, who like Shakur also has served time and turned his life around, agrees. “It (violence) starts with a way of thinking,” he said. “We have to change their way of thinking and actions will follow.”
Of course, we aren’t just talking about teen-agers. Many, if not most, of the senseless killing in the city is done by adults, who have “beefs” with others, or simply want to resort to a life of crime to make up for their own deficiencies.
All that being said, there is still a lot we all can do. The first and most important rule is “not to give up” no matter what happens. And to remember that most folks in Detroit are good people who are doing the right thing.
A few months ago, I took in a little-noticed independent movie that was produced in Detroit. Called CornerStore, it captures a comedic day in the life of patrons and owners of a Detroit party store. In the closing scene, a group of neighborhood residents stand up and back down a gunman who threatens to shoot someone at a party.
This is not a movie.
Detroit, it’s long past for all of us to stand up.
To volunteer with Detroit 300 or to get information, email Detroit300@gmail.com or visit www.thedetroit300.org. Detroit 300 has a 24-hour tip line to report crime information. The number is 313-826-8662.Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in Delric Miller’s murder. Call 800-SPEAKUP (800-773-2587).
Luther Keith is executive director of ARISE Detroit!