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Let’s Not Forget Debra Martin and Janet Royal
Published:
3/19/2014 3:25:56 PM

By Barney Blakeney


I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to get North Charleston police to update me on the Jan. 1 shootings that took the lives of two Black women and injured a third.

The incidents rocked the Black community as the Christmas holiday season wound to a close on New Year’s Day.

The bullets started flying early, about 5 a.m. in three quiet North Charleston neighborhoods as the women answered knocks at their doors. In each incident the perpetrators fired through the doors.

Debra Randall Martin, 49, of Ventura Drive and 52-year-old Janet Royal of Niagara Street were killed. Sabrina Green, 41, of Aintree Avenue was injured, but her wounds were not fatal.

The shootings outraged the Black community. For two weeks the incidents captured our focus. Predictably, a candlelight prayer vigil was held and Black community leaders in North Charleston met with police Chief Eddie Driggers who promised no stone would be left unturned in the investigations.

But February brought Valentine’s Day and our outrage was replaced by heart-shaped chocolates.

In lieu of protection from young thugs firing bullets through front doors, we offered our sisters flowers and dinner for two at their favorite restaurant.

It’s not that the Black community has forgotten Debra Martin or Janet Royal, but there’s just so much that consumes our lives.

I’ve heard there are wall to wall sistas at the lodge party up in North Charleston every Sunday night. It was the thought of the fineness of Black sisterhood that triggered my memory of the January shootings of Martin and Royal.

Sisters do a lot for the Black community. They are the working backbone of every organization we have. Every organization/institution we have that works well is run by Black women. It may be headed by a Black man, but Black women run the thing.

They outnumber Black males in colleges and universities two to one. They raise our babies - very often carrying Black boys well into manhood - and continue to nurture us and our egos throughout our lives.

Sisters got it goin’ on. So I think we shouldn’t let the tragic deaths of those sisters slip into our collective subconsciousness so soon.

North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor told me the two January homicides and shooting remain under investigation. No arrests have been made, but police are following up on the leads they develop.

In January Driggers implored individuals in the community to come forward with information. He promised his officers would do everything possible to protect from retaliation those who cooperate.

I know it’s a scary proposition to talk to police about crimes and criminals. One guy told me he once called the cops about illegal drug dealings and shootings in his downtown Charleston neighborhood and after the cops came and searched the area finding a couple of guns under some steps, knocked on his door announcing they knew he was the guy who initially called and asked if he wanted to give any additional information.

How dumb can a cop be? I think that cop probably doesn’t represent your typical police officer, but who wants to take chances? Still, as Charleston police Maj. Jerome Taylor said back in January, us brothers ought to refuse to allow the perpetrators of those heinous crime to hide among us.

Even among criminals there should be some honor.

Nobody likes a snitch. Even little kids are against being a tattletale. But this isn’t about being a rat, this is about honor. When I grew up in Acdabee and on the Eastside, there were some things we just didn’t do.

First off, we went off the hands. You might go home bloody, but everybody was going home. If you did somebody, you walked up to him and did him, not in the back, but looking the guy straight in the eyes. And we didn’t rob each other.

A stranger might catch hell, but your friend didn’t rob you. There always was that unspoken code of honor. I think it’s that same code of honor that cries out for justice for Debra Martin and Janet Royal.

Pryor said that since January there has been one other homicide in the city and three other incidents where someone has been shot. There’s a lot of year left. Last year there were 32 homicides in Charleston County, 13 in North Charleston.

In his plea last January Driggers said its going to take mothers and grandmothers turning in sons to solve the city’s homicides.

Out of respect for Debra Martin and Janet Royal, we should do whatever it takes.

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