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Feeling The Pain Of Violence In Charleston Streets
5/27/2015 1:18:16 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Hearing the lamentations of a woman distraught by the overwhelming burden of criminal violence committed in our community and across the nation made me reflect. Sometimes situations can seem so hopeless.

In recent weeks the violence and suffering inflicted on people in our community, across the nation and all around the world has brought many to the point of frustration. Some, like this sister I know cried out to God. Others questioned God and still others cursed God.

As Islamic jihadists reconquer territories in Syria and Iraq, they have destroyed ancient artifacts which they consider Christian that have lasted over several millenniums. In my mind, it isn’t about the religious value of the artifacts, its about the history. How can anyone destroy historic stuff thousands of years old, Christian or otherwise?

Many of us are oblivious to the genocide being committed on the African continent. We’ve all but forgotten those 200 kidnapped Nigerian school girls. I guess there’s so much suffering and violence right here in our own neighborhoods, it’s easy to overlook violence afar.

That’s what got my sister distraught, the pain of violence right here. Until her cries for God’s mercy for a society gone wild, I hadn’t felt the pain of that Washington, D.C. family killed last week - including a 10-year-old boy brutally murdered whose body was set ablaze in his bed. It’s hard to ignore that pain, but I did. It was just another horrific news story, but none the less, just a news story.

I did feel the pain of 36-year-old Kadena Brown-Vandershorst, killed by a gunman searching for his intended victim in a car similar to the one Brown-Vanderhorst was driving. Don’t know why I felt it. Maybe it’s because of her absolute innocence in the situation. She’d been eating crabs with female relatives before her car was mistaken for one involved in a rolling gun battle.

I know how my Charleston sisters get when they’re doing their crab thing. My classmates and their sisters get together to do that stuff a lot. The Miller girls have a good time together. I imagined Brown-Vanderhorst’s family doing the same thing before she left their girls’ party on that fateful night.

It was just two weeks before that someone told me a friend’s son had been shot in a murder attempt that took the life of one young Black man and spared injury to a baby my friend’s son had been holding. I didn’t really feel pain in that incident, only a gnawing sense of frustration at the wanton violence.

I got a stabbing pain from the gunshot that paralyzed Brian Heyward, who called Charleston County Sheriff deputies as home invaders broke into his Hollywood residence. Although Heyward’s injury was caused by a policeman’s bullet fired through mistaken identity, it was the violence of young Black men which started the sequence of events.

I felt that same pain reading the account of a five-year-old boy’s paralytic injury after being shot May 22 as he walked with his grandmother from her apartment in a downtown Charleston housing complex. I keep asking myself how does a five-year-old grow up in a wheelchair?

Why? Because some young black men were in a neighborhood full of people, shooting at each other. And by George! It’s the same neighborhood where three weeks ago my friend’s son was shot while holding the baby. Didn’t anybody learn anything the first time?

After Brown-Vanderhorst’s murder I talked with Charleston County Sheriff Department Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas about ways to prevent all the violence. I’ve had the same discussion with his boss, Sheriff Al Cannon. They both give the same responses.

Mitch said his painful incident was the murder of a Summerville kid shot during a robbery attempt as he delivered a pizza a couple of years ago. The pizza guy was working his way through school on his way to a bright future when he was shot down by two young thugs, Lucas said. He lamented there were no marches to protest that kid’s murder.

Lucas, Cannon, Jerome Taylor, Ronald Hamilton and every other cop I’ve ever talked with on the subject say the same thing - the pain from all the senseless violent acts that cause so much suffering only will stop when we teach people that they should love and respect each other.

Some folks say lock ‘em up. Punish ‘em. I understand that response to the pain, but that doesn’t prevent the next victim’s pain. Lucas says we’re not going to arrest our way out of that pain. Changing the game is going to take something harder, more comprehensive, starting with the babies and including the older ones as well. Not an easy task, but it can be done.

Our situation isn’t hopeless. It’s difficult, but not hopeless. It takes sincere effort, tireless effort. But it must be done. How many prayer vigils and survivors groups are we willing to have before we use that energy to do the things we know produces good people?

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