By Barney Blakeney
Last year there were 32 homicides in the City of North Charleston. So far this year there have been three – one per week. Almost two-thirds of the county’s 58 homicides in 2016 occurred in North Charleston. And only forty-five minutes into the New Year, the first murder of 2017 in North Charleston was committed on Dorchester Road.
Gun violence has been a buzzword triggering many to lament the onslaught of violence that robs young black men of their lives before they even begin. Of the 58 homicides committed in Charleston County last year, 39 of the victims were black males. To stem the tide of homicides taking so many lives, a multifaceted approach is required. But just what is being done to stem that tide?
A newly-formed group, the United Black Men of Charleston County, organized to reduce black male homicides, has endeavored several initiatives that include repeated walks through one of North Charleston’s most deadly communities. Additionally the group has held community meetings.
Most recently members met with Charleston County School District Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait and the administrative team to suggest that gun violence prevention and intervention be offered as part of the district’s curriculum. The group also is developing strategies to increase employment among young black males as an alternative to criminal activity. And this week former Charleston County School Board member Tom Ducker noted a proposal to establish a new charter school serving males ages 16-21.
North Charleston City Council recently approved a plan to create a citizens advisory commission on community and police relations. The plan calls for a 25-member commission made up of 20 city council appointees – two from each council district – a mayoral appointee and high school student appointees from various schools in the city.
Members of the new commission will perform several functions, including reviewing police policies, traffic stops and internal investigations data, hearing residents’ complaints and helping to recruit new officers.
Muhiyyidin D’baha of Black Lives Matter Charleston this week said, “We are well overdue for a cooperative effort to end the rash of homicides that largely affect our community of color. And there is no indication that it will stop. We are hurting. The bleeding must stop. Who do we hold accountable? Who is responsible? Everyone can react, get overwhelmed, and lash out at each other for not doing enough. But where are those that can respond to the pain, confusion, desperation, and conflicts that our youth are finding themselves in?”
He asked, “Are there responsible people in leadership positions – elected officials, clergy, and businessmen? If so why haven’t adequate resources been set aside to demonstrate the value of our youths’ lives?”
D’baha suggested, “Maybe the people who can respond best are those artists that the youth listen to already, those brothers and sisters that have traveled the rocky road, and now tell their story in poetry and song. We have re-organized a cancelled benefit concert to bring together like minded artists but it was interrupted by the cities ‘security concerns’. The benefit concert is so much more than a concert and I don’t think the ‘authorities’ had an understanding about what we are trying to do. The organizers, promoters, and artists have a vested interest in creating spaces for healing and reflection for our community.
“We lost over 30 people last year to gun violence. It’s our nephews and nieces who are being killed. It’s our brothers and sisters we are losing. It is our uncles and aunts who won’t be here this Easter. So when we say that we need to come together to have a benefit concert in their memory there is a sacred purpose to that, and that simply was not communicated. Therefore we again are in the planning stages of bringing forth a healing experience in which our artists takes their rightful place in blessing our youth with word, sound, power.”
D’baha said there will be a March 4 benefit concert at the Purple Buffalo for those who have lost loved ones to gun violence and to provide a place for the local community to gather and mourn. “Be a part of the problem or part of the Solution,” he said. “All ideas are welcome. But offerings are better. What can you offer at the Unity Concert?”