How do we interpret the violence?
Written by a surviving father of a young man who lost his life to gun violence.
Who am I? I am nobody special. I'm just a parent who experienced losing a child to the recent gun violence.
Let me first say how deeply sorry I am, to the friends, families and the neighbors in the community, that you have had to experience such a tragedy and experience such terror where you live, work and raise a family.
And to the countless families, friends and communities that have lost loved ones to this epidemic of violence here in Seattle and the surrounding areas, I mourn with you as you grieve.
Having experienced the grief of my own loss I want you to know that we will be patient with you as you come to terms with what has happened. It truly does not make any sense and no one can explain it to you.
I pray that you will be comforted. I pray for the healing of your heart. I pray that you are able to express your anger, that you are able to mourn, cry, and maybe one day laugh, rejoice, hope and try to forgive.
I pray that the community can heal and soon feel like the neighborhood is still a safe place to live and raise a family.
These violent acts pour salt on my wounds. They remind of that unforgettable day, an early morning, frantic visit to my door, with the tragic news that my son had been shot. Later, to only find out that he had died from his wounds. Nothing can prepare you for losing a child. They don't teach you that. Death claims our parents and siblings but this. We'll, this is very different.
And I would be remise if I didn't mention my brother Claude, who's own son was murdered 22 years before in Chicago. I didn't understand my brothers pain then in losing his son but I understand now.
So, you see, as a surviving parent of a violent offense, I am affected by your loss, the grief, and I cannot help but to care, and be concerned.
As a citizen of Seattle, I care about my community.
I cannot tell you why I am writing this, maybe, for such a time as this, I am compelled. Maybe it's to announce to you, in some small way, through time, some comfort will find you. Maybe it's to softly say, that you will eventually experience some good days.
My prayer for you is that you will.
In part, I write, because I know my words are the words of the countless family members, friends and people in the communities in which these young people come from, who want to ask, why?
Why my son? Why my daughter? Why my brother, my sister, my friend? Can we have some answers please? Can we vent? Can we cry? Can we mourn?
Those of you who are reading this, can you even understand? Are we clear enough here when we say, this violence has got to stop... No more. Please, for the sake of the next victim, for the sake of the next mother whaling in heartbreak. For the next brother who groans. For the dad who has to break the news.
So with that said, as you read or listen to this, do so with an understanding of the spirit in which it was given, with great sorrow, pain and hope.
By now you have probably heard about more recent gun violence. I cannot adequately express here my sorrow for the families and friends affected. One of the kids I personally knew, a young man the name of Wafi, played high school basketball with my son and attended my son’s memorial 2 years before, only himself to meet the same ill-fated end to his life, gun violence.
The question now on everyone's mind is why?
End of 2014
Why all of a sudden do we have 2 murders, two blocks apart?
As a community, is there something that we just simply are not aware of that is going on there, or, something we are missing about some of our neighbors living there?
Why Lane street? Why Charles street?
What is going on in this area?
What about the drive bye shooting of a youth on Beacon Hill near Cleveland HS.
Or the most recent drive by shootings around Washington's different counties not really known for drive by shootings. Most recently, a 25 yr. old Seattle man was gunned down in Portland. Then there is the tragedy of little 1yr old, Milajha Grant. Are you serious? What is wrong with this picture?
There is too many to count.
Can we chalk up the recent violence to it just being the times in which we live in? Or is that just the way the youth resolve issues? IDK! I can tell you Gods perspective on it; do you want me to get all biblical on you, because I can do that?
Are we being to caviler about death as if it's a signoff as seen most recently with the suicide death of Cathriona White, who tweeted "signing off Twitter....I hope I have been a light to my nearest and dearest..."
Do we look at this situation as only a problem or an opportunity or both?
Is this situation part of a larger problem of poverty within our community?
What solutions would better serve our community in the short term?
What then, is the best approach to a long term solution?
Are we asking the right questions?
As we hash out some solutions, what obstacles do we face as a community?
Are there some current programs around the country that have been successful at providing services geared to intervening in the lives of youth that we need to take a look at? Do we have some in place here in Washington State and they just need better funding to help do more to help with the situation? YouthCare for example? The YMCA? THS (Therapeutic Health Services?
If so, what are the mechanisms in place to bring awareness to the community to reach youth so that they know about these programs?
How do we create legitimate opportunities for our youth so they have choices to be able to provide a better life for themselves?
What is the word then... stay in school….blah blah blah.
If we just change the message and don't deal with the problem, then aren't we just suiting our own ends?
Yes, we want an end to the violence, but we must provide a solution that benefits our kids.
If we don't, in the end, you know what will happen, more violence and more of our youth dying or going to prison.
The ones responsible for the violence must be met with justice, for sure. But, how do we address the problem before it happens again?
You may feel like this might not be the forum to address some of the questions that I raise but we have to begin to look at the situation in its complexity.
Our Youth, why so violent?
-We have to address what we teach our kids.
Through no fault of our own, we train our kids not to show emotions that would classify them, in the eyes of their peers, as weak. We say, "not to cry, but to be tough."
"We say that crying is g..)."
How do we expect them to conflict resolute when they can't express their emotions? Of course, there is more to conflict resolution. We don't give those coping skills and conflict resolution skills.
We have set these kids on a collision course with each other as some assert dominance over the others. So, some kids today, live in fear and confusion. We send them mixed messages about what it is to be a youth and a grown up. So, then, are we seeing the result of the confusion?
Further, beliefs and values?
So, if we are to start a conversation, what do you think we should address first?
-Their need to belong?
How do we address their need to belong?
Kids want something to belong to, something to identify with. Does our culture, build real self-esteem when we are underrepresented, as a percentage of the images we see in the media?
Does the language of slang, the swag, the dress, the walk, the history, build our self-esteem and give us a sense of feeling connected to each other? Should it? We have been stripped of our African language that would give us a better sense of self and pride like many of the immigrant races in America.
What then is missing in the heart of our kids?
Our kids don't have a sense of identity. So, young people feel like they don't belong.
When we don't include them in the conversation do they not feel under-appreciated, misunderstood and underrepresented? They are told that they don't understand the world and to sit in the corner and shut up. We don't invite them to the table and engage them. We don't listen to their ideas and try and coach them toward paths of success. We don't give them platforms for learning responsibility, learning leadership and empowering them to practice what they have learned which brings about a sense of greater self-worth and empowerment.
So, there are people willing to pick up the slack and these are usually the people that we have already failed and rejected.
The youth buy into what offers them identity that gives them a purpose. Things that make them feel important.
New mind set...
What do these kids want now...?
Get fast money, hang out, kick it, sex, drugs and hip hop.
They become engulfed into a life that places Brotherhood over family, friends and even self. So they are taken in and shown love. Have you ever stopped and wondered if these kids ever ask what’s in it for the leaders? Why do they merit such "love? “Do they ever stop and ask what the cost is?
Their undivided loyalty and allegiance?
Do these kids realize that one day the leader is going to give an order to take out a rival?
Their loyalty and allegiance demands action.They are again faced with the same peer pressure they received from family, friends and society, be a man, handle that business, stop acting like a little b.... "We're your family now". They become part of something bigger then themselves.
There is a value placed upon the hood life they represent and that it must be protected at any cost. "We have to protect what is ours homie." "This our block." Think about, in this framework, does this not make sense?
What is the context for the most recent murders in the Seattle Central district? Someone felt threatened and disrespected and street justice warranted the problem be dealt with.
Was the second shooting then retaliation?
Public Opinion, your opinion
So now, our kids are in the court of public opinion. I know that we don't condone what they are doing.
But, for some, this is their way of life, as they see it, value it, live it and it is again under siege.
Examples they see....
They might ask...?
How is what we are doing any different from the actions corporations take when they pursue a corporate takeover? Besides the obvious, murder and death?
Kids, are smart, they see the similarities. Businesses everyday intentions are to put the competition out of business. The difference is one is legal and one is not. Not saying that one this is right, but, I'm just saying. We see billionaires trying to protect their fortunes and then we see what some might consider a bunch of left behinds trying to protect the hood.
Should we be equally as enraged by both efforts? Capitalism, just because it is doesn’t make it right.
Okay, what about....
Equally, these same two groups perpetuate the degradation of women,(salary differentiation, legalize strip clubs) (less then, hoes, bitches) the elderly, (they take away benefits, pensions ,reverse mortgages) (drug dealing in their apt complexes, intimidation) nerds, (high tuition, no jobs, student loans) ( peer pressure, drugs, gangs).
Do we address the issue of poverty? Not just poverty but providing real opportunities.
My age group, no matter what our background, the decade we were born or otherwise have endured against tremendous odds to obtaining some level of success. We’ll maybe some of us…;)
So then....what about today's generation of kids?
Have we failed our kids?
We tell them go get an education, but then they can't find a job once they do?
How is that then to be interpreted? Okay sure, some youth want the better things in life and don't want to work 10, 15, 20 yrs. working their way up some corporate latter that has been fixed and rigged, so they reject traditional careers.
We have all been denied jobs because we didn't have the education for it. When you get the education, now they tell you that you don't have the experience. We know that in most cases to get the job, it takes networking. We don't tell our kids that in addition to the education and the experience, you probably need to know somebody just too even get a foot in the door for an entry level job. I’ve been told “we hire the best man or woman for the job.” Okay, then can you tell me why you build your products in India or Mexico or wherever? Are they the best man or women for the job or do you have a double standard? Would not American workers be better? Plainly, you are trying to save a buck. It’s B.S.
But we find ourselves again at a disadvantage. We don't get the same connections going to the local community college as kids who attend the Ivy League schools. Think about it, how have you gotten ahead? Did someone help you get that job you have? Did someone help you start that business you run?
Then.... the question is
How do our youth get a fair shot?
Should our youth not have a reasonable expectation of being able to afford their own 40 acres and the mule? Yes. But this culture demands they take lesser then what we deserve, and they are not trying to hear that. I know this is a cliché but what it boils down to is a fair chance to succeed.
As a culture, “it seems we have been invited to a poker game and handed a fixed deck and we are expected to win.” (Watch the movie Tuskegee Airmen to hear this brilliant line by Maj. Benjamin O Davis) All people want is a fair shot.
We want a solution.
What do we do?
We have some of the most brilliant minds in the world in this country and you tell me we can't figure out how to get these kids more interested in living a life closer to what would be more beneficial to the culture and society as a whole? People have been trying to figure out a solution for years. Here is a “Come on, really, you Harvard Educated types don’t know either” moment here.
Why does it always take tragic circumstance for us to wake up to problems that long have existed?
We do the same with our families. Funerals should not be the only time we get together as family.
Some of these issues I talked about need to be addressed.
Black people, helping black people?
We need to reach down and help people who willing to walk through the door with a real opportunity.
How do we reach the youth who feel they have been thrown away by the culture?
How do we intervene in and provide hope and a future to the little ones before they grow up and become disenfranchised too?
How would raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour impact the situation? But, when you do you can’t turn around and raise prices so high as to negate the effort.
How can we change the mindset about violence?
How can we revalue human life?
We are created by God.
Where is the research?
Where is the hard data?
Who has been commissioned to study the problem?
Are they represented today?
Can we glean any wisdom from other communities, country and worldwide, as to how to better deal with the situation
Does the solution involve some gun control?
Some people think so. I would bet good money that these youth are not legitimately buying these guns.
What about a greater police presence? Wouldn't more of our people be locked up? That will only lead to greater confrontations and you folks in control know it but that is all you claim you got. Please, on to the next thing already. Instead of investing that money in overtime for cops take that money and create something of value to and for the youth. I know, I know the public has to feel safe, but would they not feel even safer if they knew that there was something of value the youth could be into?
I have not even mentioned how influx of people from other countries affects our communities.
Who has solution?
Where are our leaders? Who are they?
Are we missing something?
What is violence in our communities doing to our opportunities?
We have a real problem....
What have we recently learned through the NBA LA Clippers Owner Donald Sterling about the deep seeded racism that exists in the hearts of some people?
Some white people just don't want black people around them.
Not painting all people in the community with a broad brush, but is it really beneficial to solve the problem? Do some people simply want it to just move from there community Central District to Renton, Kent, Fed Way.
What is there is a turf war of another type that is going on?
As more violence ensues, higher taxes to fund police, higher insurance costs, higher mortgages and less affordable housing.
There is a push in in the neighborhood for Property redevelopment to charge higher leases to price out black businesses that attract black people to the CD.
So, eventually, black people will be priced out of the community, so they can't live there, have no businesses there, and so no reason to be there. And when you don't have a reason to be there you can be racially profiled and locked up. Ya’ll don’t see this happening before your very eyes?
Financial services, reverse mortgages are being sold to our seniors. They stay in the house but upon there death the house reverts to the lender. This way the grandparents and parents can't pass along the house to the kids and grandkids.
Food for thought
Is this paranoia? Or are people really this cunning?
If some people don't want to interact with someone as successful as Magic Johnson, what does that say about our situation? What does that say about the future opportunities for our youth?
Some people just don't want us here.
Are we being starved out?
But I digress...
A conversation needs to ensue. It can't just be the people, who make and defend laws, but it has to include those who perpetuate violence or it is not a conversation.
How do get everyone to the table?
What will be brought to the table to give youth hope for a better future? That is the real issue?
How do we get people to change when all they are trying to do if get a piece of the American dream and provide for them? Would it not, be in a sense to them, going backwards if we ask them to give up what they are doing to settle for a job at Mc Donald’s? How do you sell that?
We call for an end to the violence.
Youth, I know we are asking a lot of you, but please, think about this; before the next situation you find yourself escalates to the level of using a gun. Try to agree to just squash it. L.I.G., it, let it go.
We want justice, court not street.
We want those that have taken to violence held accountable for their actions. We don’t need retaliations though.
Who am I? I am nobody special. I'm just a parent who experienced losing a child to recent gun violence.
By Vincent Williams