“In 2013, no one expects to see a man dressed in a K1an robe mid-morning in Center City, Philadelphia.
“I think that’s nonsense,” said one woman on the street.
“He needs to be committed to the jail system,” said another onlooker.
The man, who stood on the corner of 13th and Filbert on Tuesday, is not out to lynch or kill black people. In fact, he is black.
Thirty-five-year-old Sixx King says he’s using the offensive symbol to highlight a serious problem: black on black crime.”
According to the article and the video, which accompanies the article, King believes that African-Americans have killed more of their own people than the K1an and that standing on a corner in downtown Philly is the best way to bring, “awareness to the black hypocrisy, complacency and apathy in the African-American community.” Well that is certainly an eye-catching way to do so but is it necessarily the best way of raising awareness about black-on-black violence?
Up until last October, I was employed as a community organizer, working in a neighborhood, which was plagued in violence and would routinely serve as the hosting ground for such high profiled gun deaths, including the murder of a police officer; the shooting of three people including a two year old at a neighborhood block party; and the unsolved murder of a laundromat owner. In fact, my very first day of work in this community three and a half years ago, I played witness to the shooting death by police of a teenage robbery suspect, who just so happened to be the son of two Philadelphia police officers. This occurred right outside of my office window. Now witnessing this would have understandably been enough to make any sane person start thumbing through the Help Wanted ads for a new gig, but this is also a community, which reared me for a good portion of my childhood. And I felt a special obligation to support the best way I could the people in the community, who despite the momentous task and constant frustration, were committed to addressing violence in the streets. And despite public perception, there are tons of people, our people, in the community, who were willing to rise to the occasion.
Anyway, it was last summer on my drive in to work when I was first confronted by a older dark skinned man with salt and pepper hair, standing on the corner of one of the major Avenues with a sign that read: “Our Children Are Being MURDERED in the Streets of Philadelphia and Nobody is UPSET” This concerned citizen’s name is Donnie Andrews and he is a true steward to the community. I’m talking about a man, who would go out with a broom and dustpan to clean the streets of his neighborhood without provocation and without compensation. A man, whom his neighbors not only respect but knew that if they ever found themselves troubled, Mr. Donnie (as he was respectfully called) would be there in their time of need. A man, who every year would pay homage to one of his neighbor’s slain children by giving another deserving child in the community an award. Every single day for the last two months of my tenure as community organizer, I would drive past Mr. Donnie and his sign. It became a sobering reminder, that some days I did not want. Working as a community organizer was difficult enough without being burdened with the question of, am I caring enough about what is happening out here on these streets? But I would also be lying if I didn’t say that Mr. Donnie message had a profound effect on me. And seeing Mr. Donnie’s message daily helped to keep the issue of violence, particularly gun violence, in the forefront of my mind.
Yet when I see King, dressed in his K1an outfit, I don’t feel the same mindfulness, which used to come from my early morning interactions with Mr. Donnie. For one, I can’t see past the K1an outfit. It’s so subversive and inflammatory, which is no doubt the intent. It is true that King and his K1an outfit is getting national attention and tongues waging whereas Mr. Donnie with his hand etched sign on a stick did not. However King’s message around the urgency of addressing black on black violence gets lost in the theatrics. Folks tongues are waging for certain but folks seem to be debating more about if his K1an costume is appropriate than the merits of his message.
Also, if the message is directed at African-Americans, specifically, why the heck is he standing in downtown Philadelphia? Downtown Philadelphia doesn’t have a black-on-black violence problem. Downtown Philadelphia barely has black residents. However, the neighborhoods in West Philly, North Philly and South Philly do. So why not deliver this message to the very communities in which he is hoping to wake up? It should also be noted that Sixx King is the director of a documentary film called Mothers of No Tomorrow, which tells the story of gun violence through mothers of those, who have been slain in the streets. According to the film’s trailer, which was uploaded onto YouTube late last month, the documentary will be available for wide release on Mother’s Day of this year. Now, I don’t want to call shenanigans but the timing does raise a valid question of whether King and his K1an robed-message is sincere or just a publicity stunt meant to promote his film? I would certainly hope not because that would be very disrespectful to not only the mothers of those who lost children to violence but also to Mr. Donnie and all the other unspoken heroes in our communities, who are out in these streets daily, giving all they can to stop the violence.