All Articles Tagged "gun violence"

Boston Appoints First “Chief Resilience Officer” To Help The Poor Handle Race-Based Trauma

August 11th, 2015 - By Chelcee Johns
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Atyia Martin,

Last night, I sat scrolling through Instagram viewing accounts of those on the ground in Ferguson. There was a 12-year-old girl in handcuffs surrounded by police, a man grabbed from the sidewalk, pepper sprayed and laid on the ground in cuffs, and many more images that took me back to Ferguson a year prior or the incidents I’ve experienced personally with the NYPD at protests. These racial occurrences are not just news items, they have a way of moving into your core and can even disrupt one’s health due to stress.

Boston’s newly appointed and first- ever “chief resilience officer,” Dr. Atyia Martin, knows this first-hand as she works to fight stress in poor neighborhoods that often contain a disproportionate amount of African Americans. The new position was created by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program. A program that helps cities adapt to economic, physical and social challenges faced.

Martin, 34, has spent the last four years leading the Boston Public Health Commission’s Office of Public Health Preparedness, but her new role will allow her to get even more hands-on with what she feels these communities are battling the most.

“The people who suffer the most after emergencies are disproportionally those who are considered the most vulnerable — people who are low-income, people with disabilities, the elderly, children,” Martin told The Huffington Post. “Then we have the undercurrent of race.”

Martin is using her new role to deal with the history of racism embedded into Boston and the ways in which it manifests itself today. The neighborhoods of Boston are still highly segregated. Roxbury is comprised of 85.4 percent Blacks and Latinos, while 90 percent of residents in a more wealthy neighborhood, Beacon Hill, are white.

However, one unfortunate incident that knew no color was the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. Martin played a critical role in providing psychological and physical support for those who faced trauma. It is this same trauma we often see in poor, minority communities.

“The marathon bombing response was very well-coordinated,” Martin told The Huffington Post. “Juxtaposed with that, over 50 shootings that happened in the month after the bombing. You don’t have the same level of coordination and attention focused on people who suffer under chronic community issues like violence.”

But Martin believes creating discourse is the first step to moving forward.

“You have the best discussions when you have a nice mixture of people in the room across all races because it helps people see different perspectives,” Martin said. “It’s a challenge we’ll be able to overcome, but a challenge nonetheless.”

In a press release, Mayor Marty Walsh stated Martin’s new position will aid in Boston’s ability to “withstand and bounce back from the ‘shocks’ — catastrophic events like floods, infrastructure failure and acts of terrorism — and ‘stresses’ — slow-moving disasters like persistent racial and economic inequality, lack of affordable housing and unemployment.”

Martin’s new position could be what many other cities are in need of to combat the realities and affects of the racial history ingrained into our communities. Many studies have been done to reveal the realities of post traumatic stress disorder due to racial events, which is often referred to as “race-based trauma.”

Last month, NPR spoke with many psychologists for “Coping While Black: A Season Of Traumatic News Takes A Psychological Toll” and realized individuals who take on a level of stress due to racism often have changes in mood, appetite and become worrisome about other unrelated events, sometimes making it hard for them to be as productive.

“It’s not the incident that causes stress, distress or trauma; it’s the helplessness in the face of the incident,” psychologist Carl Bell told NPR.

Martin’s new position may not solve the issue or eradicate the racial incidents occurring, but her work may be an example of the types of things leaders in more poor and racially segregated communities should be doing as a service to its residents. What do you think?


This Is What Black Mothers Are Doing To Stop Senseless Violence In Chicago

July 31st, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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The next time one of your ignorant Facebook friends asks what are Black people doing about “Black on Black crime,” you can tell them about the “Army of Moms” on the South side of Chicago.

This…vintage news somehow slipped under our radar about a month ago, but we felt it was an important and inspirational story that needed to be told.

According to, these concerned women, mothers, started patrolling their neighborhoods in late June after the death of Lucille Barnes. The group of volunteers calls themselves Mothers Against Senseless Killings. The women wore pink shirts, sat in folding chairs and leaned on mailboxes  hoping to prevent retaliation.

According to police Barnes, 34, was killed after a man walked by her and two other women and opened fire.

Tamar Manasseh, Englewood resident and founder of Mothers Against Senseless Killings, said “People are very emotional about it, and we don’t know what’s going to happen. If people say there will be violence, there likely will be violence, and you go where you are called.”

Manasseh organized the event for the first time after this particular shooting, hoping that people would be dissuaded from shooting if they were being watched by a mother figure, 15 mother figures, to be exact.

Manasseh said, “If you’re trying to shoot someone and we’re out here, you’re not getting off the block.”

The group plans to be on that corner everyday, for four hours, from now until Labor Day.

If and when another shooting happens, the mothers will move to make sure the neighborhood knows the mothers are watching.

The group, who is working without the help of police, brought grills and hot dogs to show that the message is coming from community members rather than law enforcement.

Manasseh said, “This is about reconnecting with children that haven’t been mothered that much. Take away the guns, and they’re just kids.”

Manasseh and others in her community believe that parents had relinquished authority to their teenaged children and the violence in Southside is a result of that.

The goal now is to change the mindset and not just simply take the guns away.

So far, it’s worked. according to another piece in DNAinfo, five weeks after Barnes’ murder there have been no shootings on the block or on the 7500 block of South Harvard where the patrols are set up.

Still, Manasseh says that the group needs more volunteers.

Right now there are about 15 adult volunteers who have pledged to be out every day until Labor Day. It’s the same number of people they had initially after the June shooting.

She laments the brevity of people’s attention spans.

“It’s hard to keep their interests between tragedies.”

One community leader cited fear as the reason Manasseh hasn’t seen more participation.

“It’s not easy. Our people are afraid so they don’t participate.”

Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case with the teens from the neighborhood. At least 24 teenagers have taken an interest in keeping their community safe and have started participating in the patrols.

The ultimate goal is to get people on other blocks to follow Manasseh’s example and start their own patrols in their own neighborhoods. Manasseh plans to hold an orientation in the future to teach conflict resolution and strategic placement.

In an earlier interview, Manasseh said, “A mother’s love is selfless, annoying and always there. This is what mothers do best, get in the way.”

If you’re interested in helping Manasseh and her cause, you can learn more here.

Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” Will Be Amazon’s First Feature Film

July 15th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Spike Lee


While Amazon battles its “Christmas In July” sale competition with Walmart, the prominent online marketer announced Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq film will be its first feature-length film.

Based on the reoccurring violence in the inner-city of the Chicago, Lee’s cast includes Nick Cannon, Jennifer Hudson, Common, Wesley Snipes and John Cusack— some of whom grew up in the city. Despite the criticism the film has received for its title (a slang word used to describe the level of violence and conflict in the city), Amazon reports filming finished last week. Many politicians believe it will be hurtful to Chicago’s tourism, although they fail to address ways to better its on-going gun violence situation.

This past January, Amazon began planning to produce a dozen films this year in the hopes of creating distribution deals with traditional theaters. It also plans to release those same movies on its Prime streaming video service a month or two after it releases in theaters. The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon’s aggressive approach may help them with their leading competitor Netflix who has several hit original content films and shows.

Prior to Spike Lee, Amazon launched deals with Woody Allen and Doonesbury comic strip creator Garry Trudeau.

“Lord Jesus, These Streets Is Not Right”: Bloody 4th Of July Weekend Leaves Chicago Residents Reeling

July 6th, 2015 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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The Fourth of July will be remembered as bloody weekend by Chicago residents after tragedy swept through the city during the celebratory occasion. According to NBC News, nine people were killed and 46 were wounded in shootings that spanned across the city.

Among the deceased is 7-year-old Amari Brown, who was enjoying a fireworks shows along with his father in Humboldt Park around midnight Saturday. Sadly, the show was cut short when the gunfire erupted not far away from where the twosome stood. Amari and a 26-year-old woman were wounded. The elementary school student died from his injuries. The other victim, however, was transported to John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital in stable condition.

According to Amari’s father, Antonio Brown, he assumed that the gunshots were fireworks at first. He also confessed that he didn’t know the boy had been shot until he heard him calling out for him. According to CNN, police believe that the boy’s father, who they say is a known gang member, was actually the target of the shooting.

“We need to repair a broken system,” Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told reporters Sunday. “Criminals don’t feel the repercussions of the justice system.”

McCarthy went on to say that the system failed young Amari, reasoning that his father would have never been on the streets in the first place if the city had tougher gun laws. Antonio’s criminal history consists of 45 arrests.

“If Mr. Brown is in custody, his son is alive,” McCarthy said.

Police are still on the hunt for Amari’s killer, and they’re claiming that Antonio has not been cooperative in the investigation.

“Love your kids every day,” said Amari’s grieving mother, Amber Hailey. “Tell them every day. Keep them with you. Lord Jesus, these streets is not right.”

Community leaders have raised a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Amari’s killer. Despite the alarming number of shootings that occurred this weekend, the number of shootings has dropped in comparison to this time last year. In 2014, there were 69 shooting victims and 15 murders.

Is It Right That Rappers Are Being Arrested Over Violent Rap Lyrics?

June 26th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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Unfortunately, it is not unusual to read about rappers getting arrested for engaging in criminal activity, but what about getting arrested for pretending to be gangsters in a music video?

That is what happened to an unsigned hype from Jersey City, New Jersey. Sort of. According to reports by All Hip and, nine members of a New Jersey Bloods gang, who also make up the hip-hop group DFG, were arrested for brandishing a gun while filming their their music video. The video, which is for their first single called “MoneyCello,” was posted about a year ago, but somehow it recently caught the attention of the Jersey City Street Crimes Unit who used the “evidence” to get an arrest warrant for the nine men.

According to published reports, one of the rappers was apprehended while at his full-time non-rap gig at a warehouse. Another was arrested while in bed with his girlfriend. During the raids, which included a search for the YouTube music video, police found small amounts of drugs and other paraphernalia in their homes; however, none of the reports specify if the actual guns (or any guns for that matter) used in the music video were recovered. Still, experts from the Newark Police Department’s Ballistic Lab are certain that the guns used in the video were real and have determined that one of the handguns was either a 9mm or a .380 semi-automatic.

And because of the video, which prior to their arrest had only a couple thousand views, the rap group is looking at a litany of charges, including felony unlawful possession of a handgun.

This is not the first time rappers have been arrested for their stellar performances. Last year in San Francisco, Bayview plainclothes officers raided the set of a rap music video and arrested 20 people on various charges, including suspicion of being a felon in possession of a loaded semi-automatic handgun and suspicion of selling drugs. And in 2014, two rappers out of Pittsburgh were arrested and convicted of intimidating witnesses, making terroristic threats and conspiracy. This all stemmed from a YouTube rap video, which included a lyric that threatened two Pittsburgh police officers who arrested the pair in the past on unrelated gun and drug charges. The song also referenced a cop killer who had gunned down three officers in 2009.  The rappers were sentenced to a minimum of two years in prison.

An article from The New York Times entitled “Legal Debate on Using Boastful Rap Lyrics as a Smoking Gun” recently took note of this growing trend in law enforcement. According to the report, in the last two years alone there have been three dozen prosecutions in which rap lyrics were used as either confessions or to help paint an “unsavory picture of a defendant to help establish motive and intent.” As reported by the Times, prosecutors and law enforcement alike see rap lyrics as an important crime fighting tool, however:

“The proliferation of cases has alarmed many scholars and defense lawyers, who say that independent of a defendant’s guilt or innocence, the lyrics are being unfairly used to prejudice judges and juries who have little understanding that, for all its glorification of violence, gangsta rappers are often people who have assumed over-the-top and fictional personas.”

I have to agree with the scholars and defense lawyers. Rappers, particularly those who rap about the streets, are easy prey because they are involved in a profession that requires them to portray violent images and hyper-masculinity. And it really does seem like these law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are exploiting the general public’s–particularly White America’s– ignorance and disdain for hip-hop music to prosecute otherwise difficult cases. Likewise, I am sure there are tons of Hollywood directors being violent gang-related films sitting in their mansions with tons of cocaine and other drugs stuffed up their noses like Tony Montana in Scarface. And yet, I can’t recall a single one of them being targeted for felonies.

The question that comes to mind when I think of this case in New Jersey is how does one determine the authenticity of a gun from a video on YouTube? I know high definition helps to add more resolution to people and things, but it sure as hell doesn’t make them three dimensional. I mean we are talking about law enforcement agencies that can’t always tell the difference between a toy gun and a real gun in the hands of a 12-year-old boy.

But what do folks think? Is this fair or are aspiring rappers being set up by a malicious and opportunistic court system? Leave your comments below.

[Watch] Viola Davis And Jennifer Lopez Are Vengeful Killers In “Lila And Eve”

June 5th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Lila And Eve


This summer, Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez will take the screen in the dramatic indie film, Lila And Eve. Previewed in January at the Sundance Film Festival, Lila And Eve centers around two mothers whose children have died.

The women meet one another at a grief support meeting and quickly form a friendship. When Lila is not satisfied with the police investigation regarding her son’s death, Eve encourages her to take matters into her own hands. The two then begin to investigate the case and find Lila’s son’s killer, however,  they become extremely vengeful in the process.

With drama, murder, grief and drugs intertwining in the film, it appears Lila And Eve will be nothing short of a hit summer thriller.

Directed by Charles Stone III (Drumline), Lila And Eve will debut on July 17th in theaters and on demand.

Take a look at the trailer, below!

Wear Orange: Friends and Family Remember Hadiya Pendleton On Her Would-Be-18th Birthday

June 2nd, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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hadiya pendleton

We all remember the senseless and tragic death of 15-year-old Chicago student Hadiya Pendleton two years ago.

The honor student was trying to shield herself from the rain, under a park canopy, when a young man jumped the fence and opened fire, presumably targeting other gang members in the park.

Pendleton’s death made national news as she had just performed in President Obama’s second inauguration a few days prior. First Lady, Michelle Obama identified personally with Hadiya being that she too was a stellar student from Chicago. She was so moved she spoke at Pendleton’s funeral.

Today, on what would have been Pendleton’s 18th birthday, her friends, family members, community members as well as supporters across the country have banded together to remember her by wearing orange.

According to the Chicago Tribune, months after her death, Hadiya’s friends started the Wear Orange campaign to raise awareness about gun violence in their community and across the nation. They chose orange in reference to hunter’s orange, a very bright and fluorescent color that lets others know they are not to be targeted by other people.

The Wear Orange campaign started the first National Gun Violence Awareness Day in honor of Hadiya and others who’ve lost their lives.

Today, from 3:30-8 p.m., Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will join with other city leaders at a Wear Orange Party for Peace in Harold Washington Park to honor those lives.

You can watch Hadiya’s friends, family and other community members talk about the initiative in the video below.

Stop The Violence: Celebs Whose Relatives Were Victims Of Gun Violence

January 7th, 2015 - By Iva Anthony
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Despite having wealth and fame, no one is immune from suffering a family tragedy. These celebrities understand all too well the current climate of the country as they too were affected by gun violence after a relative was shot or killed.

Celebs Whose Relatives Were Victims Of Gun Violence


Jennifer Hudson

In 2008, Jennifer Hudson lost several family members to gun violence. Her brother-in-law William Balfour killed her mother, brother and seven-year-old nephew. He was reportedly upset that his estranged wife Julia, the famous singer’s sister, had been seeing another man. Four years later, Balfour was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences plus an additional 120 years.

Safe Streets: Ex-Convicts Protect Baltimore Streets, Mediate 685 Conflicts

November 1st, 2014 - By Rich
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In Baltimore, the streets are safer because of the staff of Safe Streets, a program set up by the Baltimore Health Department to combat the violence in some of the unsafe neighborhoods. This program’s most trusted staff members are two convicted criminals Dante Barksdale and Greg Marshburn. Though both have done time, they are using their ability to connect with the streets to keep them safe. They walk the streets of Baltimore beat cop style among gangs, unarmed and ready to make a difference. They have a clear motive…stop the violence.

The National Journal reports:

BALTIMORE—”This is a bad neighborhood,” the cabdriver tells me as we pull up to an ugly, beige, low-rise building in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Lower Park Heights. The dappled sunlight on the tree-lined street belies the fact that this area has one of highest per capita crime rates in Baltimore.

There are bars on the steel door entrance to the building and a keypad lock. It looks like a deserted prison. I’m relieved when the door opens before I exit the cab and a middle-aged guy with an ID tag emerges talking on his phone. He waves to me, and I realize he is Michael Schwartzberg, the public information officer for Baltimore’s  Health Department.

Schwartzberg has set up interviews for me with convicted criminals, but we aren’t meeting at a prison. We’re meeting in the headquarters of Park Heights Safe Streets. The ex-cons are two of their trusted staff members.

Prosaically typecast, they are both wearing bright-orange shirts.

One staffer, Greg Marshburn, was in and out of prison over a period of 17 years for a number of crimes, including attempted murder and robbery. He has been shot four times and stabbed at least 20. He was asked to be a witness after one of the shootings but refused to identify his attackers. “I let the guys go because I was robbing them,” he explains. “To me, that was my civic duty.”

Marshburn’s current job makes use of his old contacts and his street cred, which is bolstered by the attempted-murder charge and his unwillingness to rat out his assailants. He is a supervisor at Safe Streets, one of a small staff of black men who canvass the neighborhood like beat cops.

But they are in no way police. The Safe Streets men are unarmed and work among gun-toting gangs without protective gear. They don’t care if you’re selling drugs or doing drugs. Their message is simple: Just don’t shoot anybody.

Safe Streets in Baltimore is one of a half-dozen operations in inner cities throughout the country set up by Cure Violence, a nonprofit founded in 1995 by epidemiologist Gary Slutkin that applies the tenets of disease eradication to reducing shootings and homicides. The premise of Cure Violence is that violence clusters and spreads like an epidemic virus, and it can be stopped the same way an epidemic is stopped—by intervening at the source, reducing risk for those at highest risk, and changing community norms.

The genius of Cure Violence lies in its targeted, almost clinical approach to reducing shootings, assaults, and homicides. The group sees incidents of violence much the same as cases of HIV, tuberculosis, or even Ebola are viewed. Violence spreads when people are infected with it. It stops when those exposed to it stop infecting others.

Marshburn got his referral to Safe Streets about a year ago from another site director whom he met in jail. He had just finished his most recent trip to rehab for a heroin addiction and called up his buddy. “He said, ‘Man, I been looking for you,’ ” Marshburn says. ” ‘I got an opportunity.’ ”

Marshburn wasn’t going to say no to anything that meant clean money, no matter how crazy it sounded. He started at Safe Streets as a volunteer, walking his assigned blocks and making connections. He was carefully vetted by a team of health professionals and neighborhood leaders to see if he had a good reputation and was able to handle conflict resolution. Could he talk an angry person bent on retaliation down? Could he persuade high-risk individuals to let Safe Streets staffers keep in regular contact? Could he stay clean?

His jail buddy encouraged him. Marshburn says, “I never had a job before. I don’t have a résumé. He said, ‘You are your résumé. … You mediated a situation for me in prison.’ ”

Marshburn knows the exact date he started getting paid for his work: Nov. 26, 2013. It’s been a big year for him. He was promoted to supervisor. He mentors younger people in his neighborhood and is studying to be an addiction counselor. At one time, parents kept their kids away from him. Now they want him to hang out with their children. He is 45, with three grown children of his own and four grandchildren, ages 2 to 5. And yet this is the first year he has had his own place to live. “I don’t even want nobody to come over to my house,” he admits with a sheepish grin.

Marshburn and his colleagues are the vaccine that, in Slutkin’s vision, will inoculate troubled communities to violent outbreaks. This year, Safe Streets has mediated 685 conflicts in Baltimore, with 624 of them deemed “likely” or “very likely” to have resulted in a shooting. But that didn’t happen.

The program can’t prevent every act of violence. As I pack up to leave, the crew starts talking about a recent arrest in which a mother called police when she found her son “wrapping up a body in the basement.” They don’t offer more detail.

Barksdale disappears into the back office to find out more, then bellows in a deep bass voice, “Oh, my God! I knew it! I know all three of them.” He stands in the doorway, remembers I’m there, and shuts the door, yelling a bit more before emerging, calmer.

I ask him to drive me back to the train station. I couldn’t feel safer.

Read the full version at National Journal.

Feature Image courtesy of Howard University students rallying with Safe Streets Baltimore.


Baltimore seems to be a safer place thanks to the work of Safe Street. Would you trust convicted criminals to patrol your streets?

11-Year-Old Shot In Miami Nightclub, Over A Dozen Shots Fired

September 30th, 2014 - By Madame Noire
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From The Grio

An 11-year-old was shot, along with 14 other people, in a

shooting that broke out at a Miami nightclub early Sunday morning, according to various reports.

Drinks were flowing and music was pumping, according to a vivid report from the Miami Herald, when suddenly gun shots rang out. Witnesses told the paper they heard at least dozens if not more than 100 shots fired in the packed strip mall club.

Miami authorities told The Associated Press that when local police and rescue crews arrived at “The Spot” around 1 in the morning, they discovered a chaotic crush of teens and adults reeling from the shooting, with wounded people both inside and outside the club. Victims included one wounded male who was unresponsive and not breathing when emergency responders arrived on the scene.

Some people were running, “people were screaming, people were saying they were shot,” Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll told the AP.

Read more about this case at