|Richmond Black on Black Crime
May 30, 2005
When: Saturday, June 4, 2005, 9:00 AM to 5:0 PM
Where: Lovonya DeJean Midle School, 3400 Macdonald Avenue, Richmond, CA
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Community leaders stepping up to quell deadly trend
Gun violence is not inevitable. Even in Richmond, change can happen.
That's the message of organizers of the Richmond Black on Black Crime Summit, a community gathering on Saturday to discuss how to stem the city's high rates of homicide and other violent crime.
"One of the greatest challenges we have is to get people to understand that this is not the way it is, it's just the way that it's been allowed to be -- and that can change," says the Rev. Andre Shumake, founder of the faith-based Richmond Improvement Association, one of the event's chief sponsors.
The problem is considerable: In 2003, 38 people were murdered in the city. In 2004, the victims numbered 35 -- including 15 young men in their teens and early 20s who were shot to death. Already this year, eight homicides have occurred.
But the violence doesn't have to continue, summit organizers insist. They hope to draft a three-year plan to not only reduce the killings, but stop them altogether.
"When you talk about crime in the city of Richmond, you have to gear yourself up to be ready for change," says Rhonda Harris, a community activist who is helping work on the summit.
"You have to look at this situation and not give up. What's wrong with no homicides? Stop the killing. We want our babies to live."
Saturday's event grew from an earlier anti-violence campaign called "Blessed are the Peacemakers," formed after the August murder of high school football star Terrance Kelly.
Kelly was shot to death in his car outside a house in Richmond's Iron Triangle neighborhood, where he had gone to pick up his stepbrother. A standout athlete at De La Salle High School team, Kelly had earned a full scholarship to the University of Oregon, and was scheduled to leave for college two days later.
Fifteen-year-old Darren Pratcher has been charged as an adult with murder in Kelly's death.
The Crime Summit won't be the first major community gathering aimed at curbing violence in Richmond.
But organizers say this time, representatives from different neighborhoods have come forward in hopes of unraveling the long-standing disputes that pit various parts of the city against one another.
"If you're a teenager in Richmond, you can't travel from the north side to central Richmond to south Richmond in personal safety," said Walter Ross, a Richmond developer who will speak at the event. "Those are real borders to kids, and they do mean their lives. ... Kids here get to be afraid to cross the lines."
Too often, adults are guilty of the same behavior, says Shumake.
"You've had a lot of programs that have been formed, millions of dollars that have come into this city to fight crime," he said. "But even in the midst of all that, there were territorial issues. People who are there to help want to split up institutional territory."
Churches and neighborhood councils from across the city also have signed on as summit participants, as have the Richmond Police Department, the Richmond NAACP, the Nation of Islam's Richmond Mosque, Mothers Against Senseless Killings, the National Brotherhood alliance and the Richmond Main Street Initiative.
Motivational speaker Jawanza Kunjufu will give the summit's keynote address, speaking on African-American history and culture.
He will be followed by a series of community leaders, including Terrance Kelly's father, Landrin Kelly, who now runs the T.K. Youth Foundation.
In hopes of appealing to the city's younger residents, summit organizers also will feature a performance by the local rap group Frontline and speeches from older men who have left street life behind.
After the presentations, small groups will split off to discuss community needs in areas such as education, economic development and political action.
Race, too, is front and center on the agenda, says Shumake.
"Who are the majority of the homicide victims? Who are the majority of the shooters? ... We need to start asking the question: Why are we doing this to one another?"
The Richmond Black on Black Crime Summit is Saturday, June 4, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The free event will be held at Lovonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave., Richmond. For more information, call the Richmond Improvement Association at 510-860-3681.