Friday, April 18, 2003

Slavery of crime

We must face down the killers


"We have to find out what it is about our community that makes us hate ourselves so much that our young people would go out and shoot someone who looks like them."

The Rev. Peterson Mingo asked this tough but timely question Thursday during a "solutions forum" at Parham Middle School in Evanston.

The meeting comes in the same week as Cincinnati's deadliest night of the year - three fatal shootings of young black males between Tuesday and Wednesday. The city homicide total stands at 27 for 2003, 35 percent ahead of this time last year.

It's not even summer yet.

About 30 community leaders, advocates and ministers attended Thursday's summit. They brainstormed ways to stem violence in many black neighborhoods.

Homegrown solutions

Mostly their ideas needed fleshing out, coordination, not to mention volunteers, funding and homegrown commitment.

But they were a start.

Rhonda Ramsey, of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati, said parents and mentors must aggressively fight the glamorous fantasy of a thug's life portrayed in rap videos and movies.

Kids need to see that it's not all about riches and power, but mostly about danger and prison, she said.

Translation: groups like hers need more mentors to help youngsters see alternatives to the drug life.

Mingo, head of the Evanston Youth Council and a longtime pastor and youth advocate, said churches have to help parents get their troubled children back on track.

Parents are key to solving youth crime problems, he says. But with so many churches in black neighborhoods, why so few running programs for single parents, such as GED classes, family counseling, parenting training, tutoring and sports?

"We must go to them, because they're not going to come to us. These are our people; not aliens from outer space," added the Rev. Dock Foster, pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Evanston.

That church is hosting a youth anti-violence event Saturday, one of a series planned at various churches by the Black Ministers Conference of Greater Cincinnati and Vicinity.

Parents helping parents

Police Officer Eric Dunn suggested that adults reach out to parents of young troublemakers before they get worse. Dunn, who works as a truancy officer, said schools need help reaching parents of chronically absent children.

Most speakers Thursday urged greater cooperation with police.

Crime Stoppers (352-3040) allows callers to remain anonymous. People also can mail police a letter or stick a note under a police cruiser's wiper blades.

"There are so many cold cases out there that we have nothing to go on," Dunn said.

Some witnesses are helping police solve this week's shootings, police officials said.

But we know it can't stop there. Neighborhood residents must go beyond the crimes to challenge the criminals pulling the strings.

They must turn in the people who sell drugs and guns, or those who "rent" guns in their neighborhood.

That means braving the baddest guy on the corner.

The fear that these criminals instill is as deadly and absolute as a slave master's whip, some of the ministers said.

And we should view it as such and rise to that challenge.

It takes courage to break free of this kind of slavery, imposed on us by traitors who look like us and who ensnare our young.

The alternative if we don't?

Many more black men and boys and others will die or be wounded.

Are we, as a community, going to get real about stopping it?

E-mail or call 768-8395

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