Black bodies falling in the streets–Does B’ham have the will to act?

Onoyemi Williams
Onoyemi Williams

Today’s guest columnist is Onoyemi Williams.

If you’d like to be a guest columnist, please click here.

What if there were a proven vaccination for the Coronavirus and our government chose to ignore it?

Gun violence is ravaging neighborhoods in Birmingham, leaving families devastated, communities torn asunder.

We have a proven strategy to reduce gun violence in Birmingham.

For many in and around Birmingham – on both sides of “The Mountain” gun violence is just seen a nominal part of daily life in certain zip codes.

The people whom live in these zip codes are bombarded by the thoughts and prayers of others that seldom materialize to be anything more than words of condolence.

If Black Lives Matter, then we must support polices that protect Black Lives.

Last year New York City had some 300 homicides, while Birmingham had 92 gun-violence related homicides.  If New York had Birmingham’s gun violence rate its homicide numbers would have swelled to over 11,000.

Gun violence can be reduced by 40-60%

For two years, the Faith in Action Alabama Peacemaker Campaign has been engaging Mayor Woodfin and the Birmingham City Council about investing in an anti-gun violence street outreach strategy that has reduced gun violence in other cities by 40-60%.*

Unfortunately, the Woodfin administration and other elected officials have failed to implement such a program.

Every year millions of dollars are funneled to the police department–however they have not been able to move the gun violence reduction needle – because policing is not the answer.  But, if just a portion of those dollars were invested in an evidence-based anti-gun violence street outreach strategy the needle could move as gun violence is reduced in Birmingham.

Recently, the Peacemakers Campaign called on Mayor Woodfin and City Council to reallocate $1.5 million from the Birmingham Police Department’s 2021 budget and reinvest into the community. In 2020 the city contributed $92 million towards the police department.

The reallocation of funds into the community could not only fund an anti-gun violence street outreach strategy but also support the wrap around services that are needed to make Birmingham strong.

This type of strategy has been done in other cities where countless lives have been saved and money too. Money that can be reinvested in community development initiatives.

A 2018 National Institute for Criminal Justice study revealed that each homicide in Birmingham costs $805,000 and each shooting injury costs $598,000.  In 2018 Birmingham had 91 gun violence related homicides and over 700 gunshot injuries.

The Peacemakers Campaign is not just about needed policy change but community mobilization.  The Peacemaker Campaign began mobilizing clergy and lay people to start doing night walks in January 2018.

The West End area of Birmingham is where the weekly night walks started and expanded to include an additional team walking weekly in North Birmingham.

For two half-years until the COVID-19 outbreak, the Peacemaker volunteers walked the streets of neighborhoods hard-hit by gun violence with a motto to listen, learn, and love. This motto has allowed us to strengthen relationships with the community, allowed us to learn about the true issues of the community and love on those in the community.

The Peacemakers interaction with the community has helped them to develop need based services for the community like the Rapid Response Teams (RRT).  Many families who suffer a loss due to gun violence have no clue as to what support is available to them during that very stressful time. The Peacemakers’ RRT provides families with emotional support and assistance in gaining access to needed social services.

Also in response to COVID 19 the Peacemakers have been providing free masks and hand sanitizers to those in the community and city and to those incarcerated in both Jefferson County jails as part of Mask for the People.

To build a stronger Birmingham it will take both the citizens of Birmingham and the local elected officials working together to achieve this for our city.

There are communities in our city that for decades have suffered from significant disinvestment–gun violence is a symptom of that lack of investment.

Faith in Action Alabama’s Peacemaker Campaign calls for Mayor Woodfin and the City Council to truly be progressive in their leadership–not just in words and publicity spots, but in their actions, policies and budget investments.

An investment in an anti-gun violence evidence base program will help to make all of Birmingham stronger together.

*Newsweek: No Children Were Murdered in Sacramento Last Year for the First Time in 35 Years

*Stockton ABC/10: Stockton…homicide numbers continue to trend down

Onoyemi Williams is Faith in Action Alabama’s Birmingham Peacemaker Community Organizer. Faith in Action Alabama is a faith-based community organizing nonprofit consisting of more than 50 congregations across race and faith lines from Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery. Its mission is to honor God by dismantling systemic racism to create pathways of opportunity for all Alabamians.

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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 for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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4 thoughts on “Black bodies falling in the streets–Does B’ham have the will to act?”

  1. Ms Williams,

    Thank you for your article; it was well-put and a seriously important proposal if neighborhood culture is going to change from self-protection to self-promotion and growth.

    To quote Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, on shootings there and killing of an 8 year old girl:

    “That’s an important movement that’s happening (Black Lives Matter),” Bottoms said. “But this random wild, wild west shoot ’em up because you can, it has got to stop. It has to stop.

    “You can’t blame this on a police officer,” she said. “… This is some people carrying some weapons who shot up a car with an eight-year-old baby in the car. For what?”

    What happened at the Galleria cannot be blamed on the police. I don’t think it can be blamed on neighborhood disinvestment. It can certainly be blamed on stupidity and disrespect for innocent people.

    Now for why Black young people feel the need for guns to protect themselves from other Black people or shoot “enemies” from a speeding car or shoot up a bar or dance club over an argument is maybe something your group can figure out and solve. I hope so…I pray so.

  2. You mean the politicians you’ve always voted for won’t do the thing that actually works? They’re more interested in pandering for votes… The troubling thing is, the black community especially has believed and hung on every empty promise they make without thought.

  3. When some law enforcement officers turn a blind eye to illegal activities happening right in front of them and in some instances, they know they can use their authority whenever they choose to benefit from those activities, their apathy creates an illusion of protection for wrongdoers.
    When politicians create laws which, at least on the surface, seem to be all-inclusive, but which are in reality, based on archaic laws that were originally created to perpetually secure the rights of a majority population, while disregarding the rights of a few, questions regarding valuation and respect for those whose rights and recognition of their citizenship have been minimized, will inevitably beg review and discussion. If left insufficiently addressed or ignored altogether, issues may escalate into undesirable behaviors.
    Survival for humankind is driven by a need for people to feel socially connected to other human beings. In a better (not necessarily perfect) world, this would mean sharing the burdens of fellow humans and working towards solutions to help eliminate barriers to each other’s success.
    But for some, drinking the Kool-Aid of politicians is the only lifeline they have, because they are powerless to foment change on their own without some reliance on the majority, who decides when and if it wants to grant it. Just my opinion.

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