This year’s annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2 was a day to examine the long-term effects of deaths, injuries, trauma, grief, and incarcerations associated with gun violence in Black communities.
Several events in D.C. commemorated the day, including one on the roof of the Monique Johnson Anacostia River Center, in Southeast’s Diamond Teague Park. The park was named after a 2003 Southeast victim of gun violence.
The Violence Policy Center recently released the 10th edition of an annual study: Black Homicide Victimization in the United States, documenting that Blacks represent 13 percent of the U.S. population yet account for 50 percent of all homicide victims. Community activists, including The American Psychological Association’s Federal Action Network, discussed how misconceptions about gun violence sometimes keeps adequate solutions from being found.
For instance, within communities of color, there often exist false assertions that homicides with Black victims are uniformly “gang-related” or connected to other criminal activity. However, the study found that when the circumstances could be identified, 68 percent of the homicides with Black victims were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 51 percent involved arguments between the victim and the offender. The study also found that when the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 72 percent of Black victims were killed not by strangers, but by someone they knew.
“Black people are getting into nonsensical arguments with each other and things seem to quickly escalate into shootings; it’s senseless,” Omar Johnson, a Congress Heights youth worker, told the AFRO following the Diamond Teague Park event. “We need to teach conflict resolution to both parents and young people because the kids see what the adults do and since the adults are arguing and fussing, cursing and shooting, the kids do the same things.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser and volunteers installed a nest made of dismantled gun parts on the roof of the Monique Johnson Anacostia River Center in recognition of National Gun Violence Awareness Day. The nest was created by young people in the “Guns to Roses” Program, which uses parts from illegal guns taken by Metropolitan Police and turns them into artwork, according to a release.
“This year alone, 896 guns have been taken off the streets by the Metropolitan Police Department, but there is still much more work to do,” Bowser said. “In order to build a safer, stronger, D.C., we must work together to get illegal firearms out of our communities.”
The goal of the Guns and Roses program is to provide at-risk District youth with the fundamental metalworking skills necessary for entry-level employment in the construction industry, while also encouraging positive youth development.