The Woodson Center family lost one of us on Memorial Day. Makhi Buckly, the 19-year-old grandson of Carl Hardrick, one of our most loyal leaders in youth violence prevention, was fatally shot in Hartford, Connecticut. Makhi was a student athlete in his freshman year at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts. When Carl called to deliver the terrible news, my heart broke: “It’s my job to keep children safe, but I can not even protect my own grandson. ”
Our grief is shared by hundreds of minority families who have lost children to senseless violence in the past year. In June 2020, 3-year-old Mekhi James was killed on his way home by a haircut in the back seat of a car in Chicago. A week later, 10-year-old Lena Marie Nunez-Anaya was killed after a stray bullet struck through the window of her Chicago apartment. In July 2020, 7-year-old Natalia Wallace was shot in the forehead while playing outside, also in Chicago. Eleven-year-old Davon McNeal was hit by a stray bullet shortly after a July 4th peace party organized by his mother in Washington. In April, 11-month-old Dior Harris was shot dead in the back seat of a car in Syracuse, NY. Two other children in the same car were also injured.
In recent years the police deaths of unarmed blacks – including the murder of George Floyd – have rightly sparked national outrage. But the number of unarmed blacks killed by the police is only a fraction of those killed in our neighborhoods every day. Many of these victims are children. In 2020, an average of nearly four children and teenagers were shot dead every day in America. Yet the national press habitually ignores any victim who is not killed by the police and skews our understanding of what is really going on.
The “police discovery” movement that became known after Floyd’s death has actually killed innocent blacks. When the police withdrew, our neighborhoods were left unprotected. Crime has skyrocketed. In major American cities, homicides rose 33% last year as a pandemic swept across the country. Preliminary data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that the US homicide rate rose 25% in 2020. Between December 11, 2020 and March 28, 2021 (after the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a budget that allocated $ 8 million from the Police Department to other programs), the murders in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, rose by 46 % compared to the same period last year.
The murder rates in major cities have increased by 24% since January. Criminologist Joseph Giacalone, associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former sergeant of the New York City Police Department, predicts they will increase this year. A recent Gallup poll found that 81% of blacks say they don’t want less police presence in their communities.
While radical progressives continue to try to disappoint the police, our families, friends and neighbors have paid the price. And now people like my friend Carl have to wonder if a child’s death could have been prevented if a police officer had been there to prevent it. The Defund the Police movement is a death sentence for innocent black children. Parents and grandparents suffer greatly from the grief.
I have devoted much of my life to solving the problem of violence in America’s low-income neighborhoods, and I can tell you that the answer is not to cut police funding. For decades, the Woodson Center has invested in community leaders and groups like the Alliance of Concerned Men in Washington. They have proven their ability to change the lives of the most die-hard gang members by mentoring and empowering them to change themselves. Our leaders host events with young people to help them develop a vision for success that does not involve violence. The focus of the program is on the youth counselors, mature young adults who act as mentors and come from the same neighborhoods as the students in the schools they mentor.
In 1997, with coaching and support from the Woodson Center, Allianz brokered a conflict between two rival gangs in the Washington borough of Benning Terrace that had claimed 53 lives over two years, including a 12-year-old boy. After five years of involvement, Benning Terrace saw a significant drop in gang killings that continues to this day.
This year the Woodson Center launched Voices of Black Mothers United to help parents, young people, community leaders, and law enforcement agencies work together to end the violence in our neighborhoods. The group strongly opposes efforts to defuse the police and instead advocates measures to ensure responsible police work, including de-escalation training. Voices of Black Mothers United plans to establish a national police accountability hotline for community members to anonymously report the bad and good in their neighborhood.
Over the past year we have focused too much on the oppression from outside the black community and not enough on what is happening in our neighborhoods. Our children paid the price. It is time to gather around the police and our families to work for healing, protection and transformation.
Mr. Woodson is the founder and president of the Woodson Center and editor of Red, White, and Black: Rettering American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers.
Wonderland: When officials abandon any standards of public or personal conduct, expect violence. Image: Michael Reynolds / Shutterstock
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