Let’s save Birmingham & our children

William Barnes, President & CEO of the Birmingham Urban League
William Barnes, President & CEO of the Birmingham Urban League

ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a more prosperous Birmingham.

Today’s guest blogger is  William Barnes.  If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

Birmingham Police Officer Wytasha Carter was gunned down last month.

“He lived for us, and he died for us, and I mean that.” Those were the final remarks during the funeral services of Sgt. Wytasha Carter by William White, one of the officer’s closest friends. Another life lost to our “magical streets.”

We do not have the option to remain silent and allow these unlawful crimes to be disregarded and swept under the rug of indifference. Now we should be more aggressive than ever.

Sgt. Carter deserved more from the City he promised to serve and protect. It is time to combine our efforts to end gun violence and open our hearts to creating a greater commonality amongst members of the community and law enforcement officials.

A city divided cannot stand.

Last month a 14-year-old girl was grazed by a bullet while stopped at a traffic light with her mother and two siblings. Carltez Clark, a 28-year-old single father of two’s life, was stolen while traveling home from work. An unidentified male opened fire on him and his girlfriend. He sought refuge and security with the Birmingham Police Department’s East Precinct.

It is still unclear as to whether the attacks were due to gang affiliations. Sgt. Johnny Williams released a statement asserting “based on the information that law enforcement agencies received, the time and proximity, investigators believe they are related.”

Unfortunately, it is becoming all too apparent that the relationship between the community and law enforcement has been altered and strained. It is affecting the way we live our day to day lives, the way we parent, and the way we teach our young people to take extra precaution when traveling outside the confines of home and school.

How much more innocent blood must be shed before we rise to the challenge of combining our efforts as a united front against these transgressions?

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin spoke during the emotionally charged Carter ceremony and declared, “As much love as he gave our young people, the thing that bothered him most as a Birmingham police officer was gun violence. He hated the role guns had come to play in our community.”

It is necessary to take a step back and re-evaluate our approach to addressing the heinous acts of senseless violence in our city.

As Birmingham prepares for the 2021 World Games, too many of its’ young residence are committing violent crimes and killing each other with reckless abandonment as if it’s a sport.

I submit that we must open the line of communication between citizens, community leaders, and law enforcement. We must be intentional and strategic in the methods we choose to utilize in mending the relationship between law enforcement and citizens. We must connect those who are at-risk with resources and those in positions of authority. We must provide safe spaces for discussions regarding issues directly influencing the lives of those affected by violent crime.

The Birmingham Police Force is not our adversary.

I am calling for the combined efforts of the suits and the streets to work simultaneously in reducing recidivism and access to guns. Perhaps by allowing the disenfranchised to voice their grievances to those who are in leadership we can help to build relationships and eradicate misunderstanding. We are all striving to create a better Birmingham by becoming better people, better co-workers, better teachers, better students, and better leaders.

Together we can charter a new beginning and a safer Birmingham.

It’s going to take the active and unrelenting cooperation of everyone.

We must carry out the legacy of Sgt. Carter.

It is our responsibility to respond to this crisis collectively.

Let’s join together to save our city, let’s save our children.

William Barnes is the President and CEO of the Birmingham Urban League, an affiliate of the National Urban League. The Urban League provides direct services in the areas of education, health care, housing, jobs, and justice.

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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com

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