With two months left in 2015, as of Oct. 9 the District of Columbia has 120 homicides. That figure is 44.6 percent higher than 2014.
Benjamin Crump, President of the National Bar Association.
Across the United States, families, cities, and communities are grappling with a culture of violence manifested by tens of thousands killed each year by guns, mass murders on campuses, in workplaces and homes, and domestic violence perpetuated primarily against women.
For the last three years, Stephanie E. Myers, national co-chair of Black Women for Positive Change, has spearheaded what is growing into a national effort to combat this pervasive violence. She, along with a number of supporters, kicked off the Week of NonViolence on the steps of city hall in D.C. The week of nonviolence is scheduled from Oct.17 to Oct. 25.
“This is a very serious issue facing America,” said Myers at a press conference on Oct. 9. “We want to go on record that like Fannie Lou Hamer, we’re sick and tired of young people killed on the street, sick and tired of little girls murdered in their front yard, sick and tired of people attacking our schools, and sick and tired of law enforcement taking advantage because they have weapons and overstep their authority.”
She said events and activities will take place in cities such as Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Alexandria and Hampton Roads, Virginia, and St. Louis, Missouri. These events would include a summit on Oct. 17, workshops and seminars and related activities throughout the week. “I believe that it’s time for families, youth, actors, professionals, athletes to come together and that we can change the culture,” Myers said.
The regional steering committee for the week is comprised of Christian ministers and priests, Rabbis, Imams and members of other faiths. Alongside them are businesspeople, government officials, residents, and representatives of civil society.
Several members of the committee expressed concern about escalating violence on various levels, including homicides in D.C., domestic violence in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and bullying in Alexandria, Virginia.
“ Mayor Euille and folks from the DMV are working hard to stop violence,” said Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D). “According the CDC, the leading cause of death is homicide. I don’t know about you, but that’s a crisis. We need, as governments, to use every resource to stem the tide of violence.”
“The culture of violence exists in some American communities,” McDuffie continued. “We cannot arrest ourselves out of this, which is why I advocate a health approach using workforce development, educational agencies, and law enforcement.”
Benjamin L. Crump, the attorney representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, unarmed teens shot and killed by a vigilante in 2012 and a Missouri police officer in 2014, respectively, said, “We want to bring attention to dialogue to address violence that happens way too often.” Dr. Myers took leadership and action to stand up for the community, stand up for our children. I’d rather see a sermon rather than hear a sermon every day of the week. What she’s doing is not for the media or the government. It’s for the children.”
Mel Franklin, chairman of the Prince George’s County Council, said the community has needed to hear some uncomfortable truths for a long time. “Prince George’s County has the highest incidence of domestic violence in the state of Maryland,” he said. “The overwhelming majority of cases is caused by men. It’s something we have to own up to. And make men and boys a part of this. How do we solve the problem and use of violence? We need to add men’s absence and our own personal responsibility. We have to roll up our sleeves and think out of the box.”
“Domestic violence knows no race class or division, knows no boundary,” Franklin continued. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality . . . This is an opportunity for all of us to join together on an issue that is a clarion call to end violence.”