Stop The Violence Foundation Youth Center

The Corpus Christi church in Buffalo wants to make the most out of additional buildings it runs, and one building that seems to have the most promise is an older athletic center.

The athletic center on Sears Street boasts an indoor basketball court and a bowling alley.

Church leaders are now working with a group called the Stop the Violence Foundation to see how they can work together at reducing violence in Buffalo.

One idea, for example, came from Bishop Perry Davis, who suggested a Hoops for Peace tournament in February.

“You don’t want to change the minds of the kids, but you want to give a kid somewhere to go and something to do,”
he said. “That’s going to keep them off the streets. That’s going to keep their minds occupied, and that will hopefully save lives with what we’re doing here.”

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Floridian Tells Police His Dog Shot His Girlfriend

When police asked a man how his girlfriend got shot in the leg, he blamed the dog.

Jacksonville, Florida, police, responding to a 911 call about a shooting Tuesday night, met with Brian Murphy, who told them his dog Diesel had accidentally shot his girlfriend while she was in bed, according to Jacksonville’s WJAX-TV.

Murphy told officers he and his girlfriend, Summer Miracle, were sleeping when Diesel woke him up wanting to go outside. When Diesel and Murphy went back into the house, the dog led the way into the bedroom, he said, according to First Coast News.

Murphy reported that he then saw a flash and heard a bang. He told police he thinks Diesel jumped up on a nightstand, causing a gun on it to fire.

The bullet from Murphy’s gun hit Miracle in the leg.

Murphy told police he covered Miracle’s wound with a towel before calling 911.

Miracle’s not sure how she was shot, according to The Palm Beach Post. She told police she was asleep when the bullet struck her.

Miracle was treated at a hospital for injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening.

There was no word on whether charges would be filed.

Police Shooting Survivor Charles Kinsey Reveals The Exact Moment He ‘Accepted’ His Fate

On July 18, 2016, trained special-needs caregiver Charles Kinsey was helping a client with autism who had wandered from his group home with a toy truck in hand and was being confronted by police. As police surrounded Kinsey’s visibly agitated client, Kinsey’s attempts to diffuse the situation were overcome by mounting tension. Police ordered Kinsey to lie on the ground with his hands up in the air, and he complied. However, he was still shot by police. Part of the incident was captured on cell phone video.

Upon seeing the footage, actress and autism advocate Holly Robinson Peete, like many, was outraged. So, she organized a panel discussion about autism and policing, and invited Kinsey to share his story, including the parts that cell phone video didn’t capture. As Kinsey said during the discussion, the incident was terrifying, but he kept thinking about his client’s safety in the midst of the chaos.

“I’ve got these guys coming at me with AR-15s,” Kinsey says. “My first thought was to throw my hands up and let them know, ‘Hey, I’m no threat to you. None whatsoever. My client is no threat to you. None whatsoever.’”

Officers on the scene reportedly believed that Kinsey’s client was holding a gun, rather than his toy truck. Kinsey continued trying to convey that neither he nor his client was a threat.

“I made it so clear to these officers. I made it clear. I mean, I’m at the height of my lungs, to where I was hoarse when I got finished,” Kinsey says. “It got to the point to where I just gave up.” 

When I put my head down, I really accepted what was going to happen right there.

The moment he gave up, Kinsey continues, is apparent in the cell phone video. “I don’t know if … you’ve seen the part where I had my hands up and my head was up and I was talking to my client. When I put my head down, I really accepted what was going to happen right there,” Kinsey says.

Kinsey was shot once in the leg by police. He was handcuffed at the scene before being transported to the hospital. Those final moments of the incident, he says, were extremely upsetting.

“They treated me like a criminal,” Kinsey says. “They handcuffed me, they left me there bleeding, they didn’t try to put no pressure on the wound, anything.”

After Kinsey recovered from his injury, he chose not to return to that same job. “I’m afraid and angry at the same time,” he says. “My job asked me to come back, and I flat-out told them no. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to go back and continue doing my job; it’s just that I didn’t want to get caught in that neighborhood by those police officers.”

Today, Kinsey still struggles to understand how something like this could have happened. 

“I just was doing my job,” he says. “I look back and I ask myself, ‘Why?’ You know? ‘Why did it happen to me?’ I still right now, to this day, don’t even much have the answer to that. But I’m here. And I’m grateful to be here.”

To watch more from the panel discussion ― including the perspectives of two former police officers ― visit OWN’s YouTube channel.

Mike Weisser: Gun Advocates Keep Repeating The Same Lies. Sound Familiar?

Six years ago the state of Florida decided that doctors could not talk to their patients about guns. The state of Florida has become the legislative sandbox for every attempt by Gun-nut Nation to rid the country of any and all protections against the violence caused by guns. Stand Your Ground, Concealed Carry – both of these harebrained schemes came out of the Gunshine State. But the law known as FOPA (Firearm Owners Protection Act) was the craziest of them all.

What made the law so crazy wasn’t the fact that it criminalized doctors who talked to their patients about guns; it was that in a state of 18 million people, the law was based on six unsubstantiated anecdotes which, as the 11th Circuit Court noted, didn’t even address the same concerns. Which was one, but not the only reason why that Court just ruled 10 – 1 that the law was unconstitutional and couldn’t stand.

Throwing doctors out of the discussion about gun violence has been a major and ongoing NRA project since the medical profession first started warning about the risks of guns. Which is exactly how the Hippocratic Oath defines the role of physicians, namely, to reduce risk.  But I can’t blame the gun industry and its noisemakers like the NRA from taking an anti-doctor stand; after all, if you manufactured a consumer product which was considered by physicians to be too risky to own, you’d be up in arms (no pun intended) against those physicians too.

But what the Court said in this regard effectively stood the NRA’s argument on its head, because 10 out of 11 justices found that “there was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights.” And this is what the argument is all about, namely, whether any attempt to regulate gun violence or even talk about gun violence is somehow always construed as an ‘attack’ on 2nd Amendment ‘rights.’

Right now a bill is being debated in the State of Washington Legislature which would make a failure to secure guns in the home a reckless endangerment felony if an individual who, under law, cannot have possession of a firearm gets his hands on the gun and discharges it or uses it in a criminal or threatening way.  The NRA is opposed to this bill, calling it “an intrusive government legislation [which] invades people’s homes and forces them to render their firearms useless in a self-defense situation by locking them up.” 

The bill does no such thing. Nor does a doctor talking to a patient about guns threaten the patient’s ownership of that gun. But if we now have a president who stands up in front of the entire nation and after he’s corrected about the size of his electoral victory repeats the same falsehood again, should we be surprised when the representatives of Gun-nut Nation continue to promote their own false claims again and again?

No doubt that when the dust settles and the smoke clears, Gun-nut Nation will come up with their own, self-fulfilling narrative about the ‘Docs versus Glocks’ case. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the first thing they say is that the 11th Circuit is tainted because 9 of the 10 judges who supported the majority decision were appointed by gun-grabber numero uno, Barack Hussein.  But that’s nothing more than another riff on Trump-o’s attack on the ‘politicized’ judiciary, which seems to be the latest in a dwindling list of options available to the Chief Executive before he’s forced to resign.

The decision by the 11th Circuit not only puts an end to a six-year battle that erupted when the FOPA law was first announced.  It also puts a big dent in the 30-year campaign waged by the NRA and others to keep evidence-based information about gun risk and gun violence on the margins of the public domain. This just isn’t a victory for the medical community, it’s a victory for the value of reasoned, public debate.

Keith Lamont Scott’s Brother-in-Law Addresses the Role of Racism in Police-Related Shootings

When television producer Ray Dotch covered the Ferguson protests and Baltimore riots, his intention was to share the reality of these events with the rest of the world. He was teargassed and pepper-sprayed while doing his job, but, still, Dotch remained committed to getting these important stories out there.

Then, Dotch became part of the story himself: In 2015, Keith Lamont Scott, Dotch’s brother-in-law, was fatally shot in the back and abdomen by a police officer in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dotch became the spokesperson for his family, but still has more to say a year-and-a-half later. He opened up about his perspective on the tragedy during a panel discussion about policing and autism, hosted by Holly and Rodney Peete.

“I found myself angry at … the questions my colleagues were throwing at me about, you know, who he was and trying to humanize him,” Dotch says of his late brother-in-law. “It shouldn’t have been necessary for us to do that. It should just be that African-American men deserve the same justice as everyone else.”

Scott, Dotch says, did not get justice. After a two-month investigation into the incident, the officer who shot Scott was not charged. In terms of what contributes to the police shootings of black men, Dotch believes there’s one major underlying issue that we can’t afford to brush aside.

It should just be that African-American men deserve the same justice as everyone else.

“We are a racist society,” Dotch says firmly. “We just are, and we don’t talk about it. We won’t say it out loud, we won’t call it what it is ― even in reporting on these various stories. You’re supposed to tip-toe around it.

“Until we address the underlying problem, it doesn’t go away,” he continues. “I will still find myself being pepper-sprayed on the street because I was covering a story, because they assume me to be somebody because I’m black. At some point, we have to proactively address it, tackle it and do something about it.”

Dotch also believes that black men’s interactions with police could change if both sides could acknowledge each other’s fear.

“What I think would be really, really helpful from the police’s perspective is to at least acknowledge that, ‘I understand why you would be afraid, because all of this media has painted us in a way ― or, has shown all of these incidents ― that would make anybody who sees it afraid,’” Dotch says. “If we both walk into the scenario and recognize that both sides have a sense of fear, then we’re able to understand and operate in those moments a lot differently.”

For more from this solutions-oriented panel discussion, head to OWN’s YouTube channel.

7-Year-Old Suffered 20 Gunshot Wounds In Grandma’s Bed

A 7-year-old girl suffered as many as 20 gunshot wounds when she was killed last year while sleeping, an autopsy has found.

A’yanna Allen was in bed with her grandmother in their Salisbury, North Carolina home on Dec. 4 when someone fired into a bedroom window in the early morning hours, authorities said. The girl’s 56-year-old grandmother, Shirley Robinson, was treated for a gunshot wound to her leg.

“That was a 7-year-old child, innocent. We were lying in the bed sleeping. What are we doing 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning? We’re in here sleeping,” Robinson told local CBS affiliate WBTV.

A’yanna was shot in her head, torso and extremities, according to an autopsy report recently obtained by local media. Though the second-grader had 20 wounds, that doesn’t mean she was shot 20 times, since a single bullet may have caused both entry and exit wounds. 

“She was my joy, she was my everything,” Robinson said. “No matter where she go, she had to go home and be with Grandma, and that was my heart.”

Robinson has already faced a family tragedy. A’yanna’s father, Antonio Allen, was shot to death on Christmas day in 2009.

More than two months after A’yanna’s death, no one has been arrested. The Salisbury Police Department did not immediately return requests for comment on Wednesday.

If you hear something, tell it, because I need closure for A’yanna.
Shirley Robinson, A’yanna Allen’s grandmother

Authorities are offering a $20,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest. Tips can be submitted to the Salisbury Police department or Crime Stoppers online or at 1-866-639-5245.

Robinson, speaking to Fox 46 News this month, begged the public to help find her granddaughter’s killer.

“I know y’all know something, tell something. If you hear something, tell it, because I need closure for A’yanna,” she said.

Suggest a correction

Mike Weisser: The Peculiarly American Fantasy Of ‘Stand Your Ground’

Caroline Light’s provocative and original book, Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair With Lethal Self Defense, is making its official debut next week and you can pick up a copy at (where else?) Amazon but I’m sure it will be at your independent bookseller as well.  Its appearance, incidentally, will no doubt coincide with the beginning of another attempt by Gun-nut Nation to push a bill through Congress that will let anyone with a concealed-carry license carry his gun through all 50 states.

The idea that a gun license should be no different than a driver’s license has been a cherished gun-nut dream since then-Senator Larry Craig came out of his bathroom stall to speak in favor of a national, concealed-carry bill on the Senate floor. The bill is routinely filed every two years, it has always been just as routinely ignored, but guess who’s sitting in his office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue just waiting to sign such a bill into law? And what better way to rev up his sturm und drang base and take their minds off the fact that he can’t really get anything done than to announce that they can now run around anywhere in the United States carrying their guns?

And this is what concealed-carry is really all about, namely, playing out a fantasy that I can protect myself from all those street thugs and bad hombres because I’m carrying a gun. The fact that most of the folks who have concealed-carry licenses happen to live in places with little or no violent crime is entirely beside the point. I really loved it when Trump-o said he could stand on the 5th Avenue sidewalk, shoot someone down and his supporters would still give him their votes. If he did, it would be the first time that a violent crime was committed on 5th Avenue since I don’t know when. But that didn’t stop Trump from bragging about how he allegedly walks around carrying a gun.

Caroline Light’s book isn’t about concealed-carry per se, it’s really a study of a peculiarly American legal phenomenon known as Stand Your Ground (SYG.) Because other Western countries may make it more difficult to get a concealed-carry license, but they are issued if you can show cause.  On the other hand, SYG laws are a peculiarly American phenomenon, and Professor Light does a first-rate job of explaining how and why our ‘love affair’ with lethal, self-defense departs so dramatically from Common Law traditions which, in England and other British colonial zones, don’t support the SYG legal position at all.

When the Supreme Court gave Americans a Constitutional protection in 2008 to keep handguns in the home for self-defense, the majority based its reasoning on a rather arbitrary analysis of the phrase ‘keep and bear arms.’ But according to Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, it also reflected an American ‘tradition’ of using guns, particularly handguns, for personal defense. What Light shows is that from the very beginnings of the country, the earliest legal cases which codified SYG involved physical disputes that were settled with a gun. I’m not sure that we yet fully understand exactly how and why guns proliferated in the United States, but the connection between gun ownership and the legal sanction of SYG is made very clear in this work.

The problem we have today, however, is that with so many guns floating around, what to the shooter may be a defensive act could be an offensive act to the person who gets shot. Recently a 60-year-old St. Louis man was found not guilty of assault after he shot and killed a 13-year-old kid at a distance of 70 feet. The teenager was running away after breaking into the man’s car, but under Missouri law, since the man felt ‘threatened,’ he had the right to yank out his gun. What kind of country do we live in where something like this can occur? Some answers to that question are provided in Caroline Light’s new and important book.

Mike Weisser: Why Universal Background Checks Aren’t A Gun Trafficking Panacea

If there’s one strategy to reduce gun violence on which just about everyone agrees, it’s expanding FBI-NICS background checks beyond the initial sale to make it more difficult for guns to wind up in the “wrong hands.” The assumption behind this strategy is the idea that if every time a gun moves from one person to another, a background check would identify people whose behavior put them in one of the prohibited categories (e.g., felon, habitual drug user, etc.) that have always been an indication for criminal use of a gun.  

Behind this assumption lies another assumption, the idea that most of the guns that eventually end up in the hands of the bad guys get there because someone with a clean record buys the gun, knowing that he or she is planning to give or sell the gun to someone who can’t pass a background check and, hence, can’t be the initial purchaser of the gun.  When such a purchase occurs, it is referred to as a “straw” sale, and if the buyer or the person to whom the buyer gives the gun then sells it to someone else, it is referred to as gun “trafficking”; these two behaviors – straw sales and gun trafficking – are usually considered to be the way that most guns get into the “wrong” hands.

There have been many studies, too numerous to mention here, which show that a majority of guns picked up at crime scenes come from some location other than the actual scene of the crime, often not just another city but from another state. New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, issued a report which showed that, of nearly 46,000 crime guns recovered in the state between 2010 and 2015, nearly three-quarters came from other states, the bulk from states located on Interstate 95, which happens to be the most direct route from gun-rich states like Georgia and Florida up to New York.

The problem with data which shows the origin of crime guns, both in New York and elsewhere, is that since only the first gun transaction can be traced in most states (although 18 states have extended NICS checks to handgun sales, or all gun show sales or all sales), the fact that a gun first sold in South Carolina ended up being used to kill someone in Long Island doesn’t really say anything about how that particular gun got from there to here. And this is because, in most states, the original owner of the gun doesn’t have to report when or why he no longer owns a particular gun. Most states don’t require mandatory reporting of gun thefts, and few states require that police report stolen guns to the feds. The only gun owners who must report missing or stolen guns to the ATF are federally-licensed gun dealers, and most dealers protect their inventory because replacing a stolen gun ain’t cheap.

Now for the first time a group of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have published data on how guns that were picked up by the Pittsburgh PD actually went from the counter-top to the street. Based on an analysis of 762 gun traces conducted by the Firearms Tracing Unit in 2008, the researchers established that while 80 percent of the guns were recovered from persons other than the legal owner, at least one-third were stolen (the actual number was probably substantially higher) but less than half of those thefts were reported to the police. If this data is at all representative of the national scene, this means that upwards of 200,000 unreported guns get into “wrong hands” each year without a single straw sale.

Neither expanded background checks nor more diligence about straw sales has anything to do with stolen guns. And if gun owners were penalized for not reporting gun thefts, I guarantee you they would be more careful about securing their guns. And by the way, reporting a missing gun doesn’t violate any of those so-called 2nd Amendment “rights” at all.

Rev. Al Sharpton: Chicago Violence Requires A Real Commitment, Not A Passing Presidential Tweet

Donald Trump recently met with some supporters and appointees who he misled the press into believing was a meeting with African-American leaders, ostensibly as a form of outreach to our community.

During this gathering, one of the participants informed Trump that he talked to gang leaders in Chicago, that they liked and trusted him and wanted to sit down with him. After mistakenly acting like Frederick Douglass was alive and well, Trump continued to depict Black neighborhoods as nothing but crime-ridden and desperate. Aside from this one-dimensional portrayal of Black America, and the inexcusable thought that the sitting president didn’t know who Frederick Douglass was (or whether he was living or deceased), it is abundantly clear that Trump is not reaching out to us appropriately, nor getting the correct input on our concerns. We need a real commitment — not a passing presidential tweet.

Through the years, I’ve worked with activists, church leaders, filmmakers like Spike Lee (who even did the movie Chi-Raq), and I took an apartment on the west side of Chicago myself to get a genuine sense of the issues on the ground. I made monthly visits to the windy city, hosted a special on MSNBC about this very subject and have a real familiarity with Chicago and its epidemic of violence. One thing I discovered when I got an apartment in the city was that the Chicago we knew in the ’80s, when I would go as a youth organizer, and the Chicago of today are vastly different. There are no Larry Hoovers or Jeff Forts; it’s kids on the corner like a posse who shoot over any kind of disrespect they feel was sent their way. The problem with Chicago violence is not organized, and whoever told the president that he talked to gang leaders is either deceptive or being deceived himself.

People often say guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The reality is, people can’t shoot if they don’t have guns. The New York Times recently had a front page story titled “Bored, Broke and Armed: Clues to Chicago’s Gang Violence.” As the piece rightfully highlighted, a lack of jobs, training programs and opportunities overall must be addressed if we are to get to the core of the problem. There is no other way to resolve the issue of violence. Sending in feds is more of a soundbite than a strategy. Just last month, the Justice Department announced that it found a pattern of civil rights violations by the Chicago police department. So how can you send in the feds to work with local police who were just cited? Where does Chicago authority end and federal begin? How do you deal with police that may exacerbate the problem?

If the president wants to genuinely resolve the difficulties in Chicago and wants to bring in federal assistance, then he must work to repair weak gun laws that allow guns from surrounding states and areas to be brought back into Chicago. He must use the Department of Labor resources to find and provide training and jobs, use the Department of Education to deal with the school crisis (50 public schools closed at one time just a few years back), and more. Given the cabinet nominations, it’s unlikely that these solutions will be discussed. One can only conclude that the participant who said gang leaders would speak with the president is not really dealing with the problem and neither is Trump himself.

On this one, I hope that I am wrong. The citizens of Chicago need the president and anyone else willing to authentically and effectively resolve their challenges. Anything short of dealing with the root of the problem is just something else to tweet, and not something we find solutions for. At the end of the day, violence in Chicago and elsewhere must be dealt with — even if we have to work with somebody we’re uncomfortable with.

Ed Crego: It’s Not American Carnage. It Is An Urban Crisis.

In his inaugural address, President Donald Trump called attention to the very real and serious problem of “Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities….” He was right to signify on this problem.

But, as he continued to signify on an “education system flush with cash” he was wrong. And, when he ended this section of his address – after talking about crime, gangs and drugs – by declaring “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” he was even more wrong. He was wrong on two counts.

He was wrong in the choice of the word “carnage” which Merriam Webster defines as “great and unusually bloody slaughter, as in battle” to describe the current situation. This might be Trump engaging in what he referred to as “truthful hyperbole” in his book, The Art of the Deal, so we will not take him to the grammatical woodshed for that.

But he should be held accountable for his assertion that this “carnage”, or as we would label it an “urban crisis”, stops right here and stops right now. That statement is absolutely incorrect.

Saying something is so does not make it so – even in this not so brave new world of alternative facts and fake news. The sad and real truth is that the urban crisis abides.

It abides, in part, because as we wrote in March of 2015, “…not only has America not won the war on urban poverty. It has essentially abandoned it. It has declared victory and turned its attention elsewhere. The term “urban crisis” has disappeared from our vocabulary.” (We go into extensive detail on the reasons for why this has occurred in our earlier blog.)

Perhaps President Trump’s inaugural comments will renew our national dialogue on the urban crisis and the conditions of poverty in the neighborhoods of our inner cities. We are pleased to see the President shine a bright light on these issues which were rarely discussed during the presidential election year.

Here are a few select facts regarding the crisis conditions that we have highlighted in prior blogs:

  • In the period from 2009-2014, in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., there was growth in 95 areas with increases in gross metropolitan product, jobs and aggregate wages. In stark contrast, there was little inclusion with only 8 areas seeing increases in median wage, employment rate and relative income poverty rate. And, the relative income poverty rate gap between whites and other races grew in 69 areas. (Source: Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution)
  • In a study of 100 American cities over 5 and one half million young people are neither working nor in school. (Source: Measure of America.)
  • Children born into middle income families have a “roughly even chance” of moving up or down once they become adults.” But, “those born into rich or poor families have a high probability of remaining rich or poor as adults.” (Source: Brookings Institution Study)
  • In the period from 2001 and 2014, the number of high poverty schools serving primarily black and brown students more than doubled. (Source: GAO Report) Nationwide, districts with high levels of poverty receive $1,200 less per pupil from state and local sources than districts with low levels of poverty. (Source: Study by Marguerite Roza of Georgetown University)
  • Children who moved into “good neighborhoods” fared much better than those who were stuck in “the ghetto”. (Source: Studies by Harvard Professors Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Lawrence Katz )

These facts are just the tip of the statistical iceberg about the conditions of poverty in our inner cities. Sadly, as more reports come out and studies continue to be done, the conditions there continue to worsen and the residents start to be seen as statistics rather than human beings.

The crying need now is for interventions. There is an emerging consensus among many experts on where and how to intervene.

The point for intervention should be the neighborhood and the intervention should be designed to focus on kids to close what David Leonhardt of the New York Times has called “the neighborhood gap.” The intervention should be structured to bring together the families, communities and schools as the pivot points for improving the quality of education and opportunities for economic mobility for poor kids.

As we noted in earlier blogs, Harvard Professor Robert Putnam provides solid recommendations for leveraging those pivot points in his masterful 2015 book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. An excellent nonpartisan “consensus” report issued by the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the more liberal Brookings Institution provides recommendations for actions in three domains: family, work, and education.

The good news for the bad news about the urban crisis is that there are solutions at hand. The requirement is to mobilize and utilize them.

We recognize that this will be easier said than done. That is because unfortunately poverty is a partisan issue. This was demonstrated when the Republican presidential candidates, absent Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, convened in early January of 2016, in a forum to discuss poverty.

The primary conclusion of that session was that the main thing that needed to be done is to eliminate federal programs and give the money to the states to deal with the issues. As we pointed out in a blog at that time that has been tried already through block grants and failed miserably. In that same blog, we noted that Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution and Arron Chatterji of Duke University have written that because of increasing partisanship and political and policy realities the states can no longer be looked to as “laboratories of democracy.”

After the January forum, poverty disappeared from the presidential radar screen. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who was co-host for the forum did head a Republican Party Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility Task Force that produced a report on June 7 titled A Better Way – Our Vision for a Confident America. The Introduction to the Report states:

“No amount of government intervention can replace the great drivers of American life: our families, friends, neighbors, churches, and charities. And Americans do not need more one size fits all, top-down government programs that limit their ability.”

The Report itself focuses primarily on duplicative governmental programs and proposes some welfare and education related measures. It is notably silent, however on the issues of primary and secondary education, urban cities, and inner city neighborhood and community improvement.

Add to that Donald Trump’s twitter threat “to send in the Feds” to Chicago to end the carnage there and it becomes apparent that the carnage that he wants to end is that of the crime, the drugs, and the gangs.

These are problems that absolutely must be dealt with. But, if only those symptoms are addressed, the root causes – abject poverty, broken families, devastated neighborhoods, fewer community schools, and the lack of economic mobility and opportunity – that give birth to them will be ignored.

To conflate this crisis as a simple matter of law and order enforcement or of less federal government involvement and red tape is a serious misdiagnosis of the conditions causing it.

So, this is the context within which the debate about what to do in response to the urban crisis must take place. It is not a particularly optimistic setting. Nonetheless, one must forge ahead.

To do otherwise, is to ignore the crisis which has already been ignored for far too long. If it continues to be ignored for years and decades to come, this crisis could lead to real carnage.

Richard Fowler: Bruh! Let’s Talk About Chicago!

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By now, most of you have probably seen the video that went viral this week of me on Fox News being accused of not actually being from within Chicago’s city limits. While most of the attention on social media and in the press was focused on the question of who can and cannot claim Chicago as their home, the segment itself was centered around a more pressing issue: the violence and dysfunction occurring on Chicago’s West Side and South Side.

Even though I am from Evanston–steps away from Chicago’s city limits–I too am very concerned about the problems plaguing black and brown folks in the city of Chicago. Like Gianno Caldwell (the other gentleman in the segment) and many others, I have family members and friends who live in the city. And for the past couple months, I have had the privilege to work with educators and community members in Chicago. Rather than attacking each other about who is and isn’t from Chicago, we should all be focusing on pressuring our new president to begin making changes that will help the city.

As it seems like President Trump could use some help with this, here are a few steps that he can take to get started.

1. Visit Chicago!
First and foremost, the president must visit the city of Chicago and have actual conversations with the people. There is no hope for change in the city if President Trump does not make an effort to connect with and hear out the people of Chicago. Not only would this hopefully open his eyes to the severity and nuances of the issues facing the city, but also it would show the people that the president is at least trying to help them. You can’t fix a problem without truly understanding how the problem started, what factors contributed to it, and what some possible remedies are. Based on his statements, Trump seems more concerned about treating the symptoms and not the larger disease: Increasing the presence of law enforcement won’t solve the problems of joblessness, mass incarceration or Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school closings–and the gripping pain these cause.

2. Fund Schools
For almost anyone who has spent time in Chicago, it is clear that the public schools are seriously struggling. If Trump was truly concerned about Chicago, he would have campaigned on improving public education instead of destroying it. In all, Chicago schools have seen their budgets slashed by approximately $170 million since September 2015, according to data released by the district. This past August, Chicago Public Schools laid off nearly 1,000 teachers and members of the district’s support staff. How can we expect the children of Chicago to learn, grow and thrive without well-resourced classrooms, well-prepared teachers and the wraparound services necessary to meet the social and emotional needs of every student? That is what the people of Chicago have been asking for, and yet their cries have fallen on deaf ears. It took a 34-day hunger strike by parents and community members in Bronzeville–the Dyett hunger strike of 2015–to finally get a high-quality public high school for the students and families of that neighborhood. If Trump and his allies want the “carnage” to stop in Chicago, he should focus his attention on improving the public school system and use his bully pulpit to force Springfield lawmakers to properly fund public education. Education is not only a right for all Americans, but it is also a necessity for the future of this country. The residents of Chicago can only do so much to improve their schools; equitable funding starts at the top!


3. Work with Law Enforcement

Whether or not you hate the police, they are not going anywhere anytime soon. President Trump needs to work with lawmakers and law enforcement officials to begin changing the police culture in the city of Chicago. Tension between the police and the citizens of the inner city is at an all-time high, and the only way to turn this around is to re-work police culture and create conversations between the conflicting groups. While this is something that can, in theory, be handled at the state and local levels, we have still not seen any real change in the problem. President Trump and his GOP allies need to understand that black folks aren’t against police, we are against police brutality and the over-utilization of force. This past summer, Americans were forced to watch the brutal killing of Laquan McDonald, an unarmed black man who was shot 16 times at the hands of Chicago police. Why would anyone trust a system that has shot their friends, arrested their father and brutalized their mother? Why would anyone trust law enforcement to help them, if law enforcement is part of the problem?

4. Crack Down on Illegal Gun Purchasing
Chicago has an illegal gun problem that the GOP has been completely blind to. Guns on the streets of Chicago didn’t get there by accident; they were brought there by weak gun laws in surrounding states and throughout the country. While criminals don’t generally get their guns from a store, all but a small fraction of guns in circulation in the United States are first purchased at a retail store–including the guns that end up in the hands of criminals. Many of the guns catalogued in Chicago’s evidence lockup were made available via an illegal straw purchase. This means, if we want to get to the root of Chicago’s murder problem, we must find a way to limit the supply of guns on the streets. And that starts by cracking down on straw purchases and tightening national gun safety regulations to keep guns from getting into the hands of criminals. Sadly, Trump and his Republican colleagues are bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association–an organization that has been the catalyst for loosened gun safety laws and the proliferation of weapons in America’s inner cities.

Let’s be real, it is refreshing to hear a president talk about improving America’s inner cities. But let’s not be fooled by Trump’s lip service. He doesn’t care about the people of Chicago–if he did, he wouldn’t make blank statements or misguided tweets about bringing in the National Guard. You don’t have to be from Chicago to know that placing troops in an American city is a bad idea. For almost 18 months, Donald J. Trump ran a campaign that was steeped in racism, bigotry and hatred for those Americans he chose not to understand. So now that he’s in the White House, we are supposed to believe he actually cares about black and brown people? Give me a break!

Richard Fowler is the youngest syndicated progressive and/or African-American radio host in the United States. Fowler is also a Senior Fellow at the New Leaders Council.

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