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National Week of Non-Violence Seeks Culture Change

By Barrington M. Salmon


BenCrump( – Every year, more than 30,000 Americans die by gun violence or commit suicide using a firearm. America has nearly six times the number of gun homicides as Canada, more than seven times as Sweden, and nearly 16 times as much as Germany. And although Americans make up about 4.43 percent of the world’s population, they own about 42 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms. 

Across the United States, families, cities and communities are grappling with a culture of violence which is manifested by the tens of thousands killed annually by guns, including thousands in the streets, mass murders on campuses, in workplaces, homes and domestic violence perpetuated primarily against women.  

For the past two years, Dr. Stephanie E. Myers, national co-chair of Black Women for Positive Change, has spearheaded what is a burgeoning national effort to combat this pervasive violence. Myers and a number of supporters kicked off the 2015 Week of Non-Violence on the steps of the Washington, D.C. City Hall. 

“This is a very serious issue facing America,” said Myers. “We want to go on record that like Fannie Lou Hamer, we’re sick and tired of young people killed on the street, sick and tired of little girls murdered in their front yard, sick and tired of people attacking our schools and sick and tired of law enforcement taking advantage because they have weapons and overstep their authority.” 

She added, “I believe that it’s time for families, youth, actors, professionals, athletes to come together and that we can change the culture.”

Myers said events and activities during the week of Oct 17-25 will take place in cities as varied as Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Alexandria and Hampton Roads, VA, and St. Louis, Mo. These include a summit on Saturday, Oct 17, workshops and seminars and related activities all week.

Benjamin L. Crump, who gained national and international prominence as the attorney for the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown – unarmed teens shot and killed by a vigilante in 2012 and a Missouri police officer last year – said Americans cannot expect to apply the same solutions and ever hope to secure a different result.

“We want to bring attention to dialogue to address violence that happens way too often,” said Crump, president of the National Bar Association (NBA) and honorary national co-chair of the week’s activities. “Dr. Myers took leadership and action to stand up for the community, stand up for our children. I’d rather see a sermon rather than hear a sermon every day of the week. What she’s doing is not for the media or the government. It’s for the children.”

Crump said pursuing peace is an issue larger than one’s self.

“We have to be united for a greater purpose or cause than violence,” he said. “We don’t want to ‘Stand Your Ground’ for violence. We want to ‘Stand Your Ground’ for peace.”

Crump said the NBA and its 60,000 members stand committed to changing the culture of violence that disproportionately affects African-Americans. During the week, the association will hold mentoring sessions, conduct workshops and hold town halls.

The group stood on the steps of the D. C. City Hall, emphasizing the fact that the nation’s capital is among the cities grappling heavily with its homicide rate. With two months left in 2015, D.C. has so far seen 120 homicides. That figure is 45 percent higher than 2014.

“(Alexandria) Mayor (Bill) Euille and folks from the DMV are working hard to stop violence,” said McDuffie, chair of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary. “According the CDC, the leading cause of death (for young black men 15-34) is homicide. I don’t know about you, but that’s a crisis. We need, as governments, to use every resource to stem the tide of violence … We cannot arrest ourselves out of this, which is why I advocate a health approach using workforce development, educational agencies and law enforcement.”

The Week of Non-violence regional steering committee is comprised of Christian ministers and priests, Rabbis, Imams and members of other faiths. Alongside them are businesspeople, government officials, residents and representatives of civil society.

Among elected officials who have endorsed the National Week of Non-violence 2015 are Gov. Steve Bullock, Montana; Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee; Mayor Todd Strange, Montgomery, Ala.; Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago; Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C.; Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando, Fla.; Mayor William Pedudo, Pittsburgh; Mayor Michael S. Rawlings, Dallas; Mayor William Euille, Alexandria, Va.; and Mayor Paul D. Fraim, Norfolk, Va.;

Concludes Crump, “Trayvon’s mother said it best: ‘I want to thank you for standing up for my child. But it’s not just my child. Tomorrow, it could be yours. We have got to stand up for Trayvon, stand up for justice.’ Don’t wait until it comes to your doorstep before you stand up for violence…If you don’t do anything for your brother or sister, don’t expect Dr. Myers to come and stand up for you. God wants our children to live out the fullness of their destiny.”