By Lynn Jones
Even after the recent killing of 22-month-old Aiden McClendon, killed in a “gang-related” drive-by shooting, Jacksonville residents continue to protest, hold prayer vigils and “stop the violence” rally’s. The toddlers murder marks the 14th murder in Jacksonville since the beginning of the year. Over the past few years, killings of young black males have taken place all round the country. From Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown to Jordan Davis and Tamir Rice, their crimes did not take place in the core ghettos that are currently plagued with unwanted violence. Martin, Brown, Rice and Davis were victims of individuals who placed the blame on African American stereotypes. Yet, in the so-called “hood” violence is rampant and innocent individuals are being killed in unknown retaliation outbursts. Barely into 2016 and throughout 2015, many local individuals of color have been murdered, and their names are still listed as unsolved murders: On January 28th, just after midnight Jerry Brown, 22, was sitting in his car in the 3500 block of Henrietta Street in Northeast Jacksonville when he was killed in a senseless drive-by shooting. On January 27th, 26-year-old George Williams Ashley and 21-year-old Brittany Shantel White sitting in the front seat of a car shot to death. These are just three recent instances of the violent crimes plaguing the city.
Over the weekend, Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams and Jax City Council members held a press conference to discuss the crime sprees and what can be done to find the killers and deescalate crime in the urban core neighborhoods. The Mayor has vowed to dedicate an additional $500,000 to support the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office. Most recently, a coalition of local activists including leaders of Families of Slain Children, Jacksonville Youthworks and the Eastside Community Council stood together to offer alternative evidence based solutions to the escalating violence in the Jacksonville Community. So far in 2016, the killing of 22-month-old Aiden McClendon marks the 14th murder in Jacksonville since the beginning of the year. Solutions discussed at the press conference consisted of reallocating designated funds the Mayor newly targeted for more officers on the streets to having the funds directed to the various non-profits that “are currently on the ground making grassroots efforts engaging in assisting youth and grieving families in the community.” “The lack of access to education and opportunities are the main issues. We need people to be devoted to enhancing the physical business of creating jobs, business growth and individuals not getting richer on the people on the north side,” said Denise Hunt.
A common retort has been “Well, what about black-on-black crime?” –a phrase that originated in the 1980s and has been used to cite black people as the problem instead of poverty, poor educational opportunities, proximity and other factors that spike crime rates in all communities despite racial composition. As we gather in protests, marches, prayer virgules and meetings, African-Americans need to figure out a way to turn black-on-black crime into black-on-black love. Some people are working on that, but not enough, As a race, we have proven the Black community will accept any help it can get to combat crime, but it has to do a much better job helping itself – and that begins at home.