Thursday, August 2, 2012

Where is David Kennedy?

As essay on the recent violence in Camden

In the last month, many young people and others have been murdered in Camden, New Jersey. Some were shot on a street during daylight.

In a city with high unemployment and a decreasing population with people moving out as soon as they can afford to, and a myriad of other issues, it’s times like these that call for transformational leadership. The mayor is the leader of the city, both politically and socially. She is the most well known person and when she speaks people listen. And when she acts with her powers, the light of every decision hits everyone.  

Before I say anything else about the mayor, I have a disclosure. The mayor appointed me to the school board in 2010. Putting me on the Board of Education is a pick that created frantic and fearful waves from those that thought I didn’t deserve it or earn it. She ignored the convenient politics and gave me the unique opportunity to be a part of a group that serves 12,000 students and approves a $330 million annual budget during the most tumultuous time in its recent history. It was an example of how she put people and policy before politics. I am fortunate and truly grateful. But I don’t feel like I owe her anything like I used to. Since I’ve been on the board, the mayor asked me for one thing (a few hours before taking the oath). And I told her no. She’s certainly never pressured me to vote a certain way, and I say that after two years and dozens of controversial votes.  She talks to me respectfully and never minds taking a picture with me. I felt bad writing this. Guilty. Sad. Then I remembered Albert, Anjanea, Jeremiah, Tyreek, Ralph, Curtis, William, Jose, Carlos, Angel, David, Leroy, Matthew (a baby), Leonard, Houston, David, Daquanta, Juan, Jonathon, Kevin M., Kevin J., Felicito, Elaido, Antwan, Travon, Carmen, Taurean, Husani, Francisco, Lori, Kevin, Kano, Vernon, Brian, Jeremy, Julian, Ashley, Marvin, Sahmir, Hanief, Tara, Tarik, Jeffrey, Erick, Damon, Wallace, Jawan, Deogones, Joram, Deogones, Joram, Allen, Lisadro, Barry, Paul, Bruce, Louis, Jose, Carlos, Josue, Lee, Tyhan, Shavor, Nicholas, Franklin, Gary, Shaun, Sophia, Samazie, Vincent, Khalil, Kishaun, Alma, Jacquelin, Wilfredo, Lashaad, Robert, Delita, Jovan, Reynaldo, Franklin, Khalil, Luis, Jose, Wauynee, and as I’m writing this, Jermaine, and John; the people that died in the last 18 months. And then I stopped feeling bad.

The lives lost, the grief that families have, the continuing bad reputation of our city, and the need for someone to speak out or write about these issues are all more important than my own political convenience.

In the last few weeks, I have talked about the violence with the mayor and her chief of staff briefly. Mrs. Novella Hinson first talked about David Kennedy at the school board retreat on July 14th. I talked to her about it again and she told me that the mayor is working with the state attorney general and Mrs. Hinson would soon begin training.

So after all these murders and weeks passed, where is David Kennedy? Okay, obviously I owe an explanation of why he is so important. Read this article. As for Camden, according to his strategy, known gang members on probation or parole would be urged to talk to their fellow thugs and demand that they stop shooting and killing or they’d receive harsher sentences. Save lives or stay in prison. It might be mean, but it has worked in other places. A similar program was used in Chicago and became a documentary call The Interrupters. You can see the whole movie here.

People can debate how successful this program may or may not be. But it is something and it means the community has the opportunity to take part in decreasing the violence. It if that doesn’t work, try something else. That is what leadership is - making things happen for people.

Girls are living in neighborhoods where the boy that tried to “holla” at them yesterday is dead today. Although the drug addicted prostitutes are occasionally arrested, we know little about what’s being done about to decrease the obvious prostitution on Broadway and Morgan Blvd which persists. Although cops stand on the intersection of MLK and Broadway, we know little about what’s being done to stop the selling of pills and other narcotics in that area or the mugging or people that are just trying to go home. Although “wet”, marijuana soaked in embalming fluid, has overtaken some families and this addictive and dangerous drug is quickly becoming my generations’ crack, this is a silent issue.

The best opportunity that the mayor had to motivate the city to be safer was last Thursday at the Peace of the Streets event. In front of one thousand people, she could have talked about the David Kennedy model among other things. If I may, she could have said:
In our city, there are a few people, that commit too many crimes; there are too many gangs that hurt too many people. And this may be because there are not enough good schools, not enough good paying jobs, and not enough alternatives to gangs for our young people.

So that is why, as mayor, I have worked with ________ to ____________ and because of that ____________. We will continue to ____________ and I ask you the community to join me by_______________.

Instead, she introduced all of the present elected officials and the school board members, including me. At an event mostly paid for by the school board, and well coordinated by a school district employee, she asked elected officials and one handpicked school board member to speak. She spoke about “making peace an action”, which was okay, but more boring than inspiring. The event ended with Brother Wassim Mohammed from the Nation of Islam eloquently spoke about his cause bring the message of The Honorable Elijah Mohammed, a prophet of Allah.

Most people there did not know who their elected officials were. They just want them to do their job. A peace concert should never be taken over by politicians clapping for themselves. As people die, people move, and people wonder what is being done, this was a time for answers and solutions, not “also on the stage...”.

I say all that to say this: the reaction from the mayor on the violence in Camden is unacceptable. The mayor is not a failure on the issue of public safety. After almost half of the police department was laid off, she worked to get grants and other funding to hire almost all of them back. That is a great accomplishment. But, the police are much better at responding to crimes that have already taken place than preventing them. Rehiring police is not the answer to the problem of violence. If it was, July 2012 would not be the deadliest month ever in Camden.

The solutions are much more complex, yet all of us know them: have organized activities for teens, make the current public schools safe and clean places where students are held to high standards and learn 21st century skills, bring more businesses to the city, connect the community to jobs in the region. This is list of things most urban mayors around the country do. I look forward to working with a mayor in Camden that will.

4 comments:

Marcell Holiday said...

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Marcell Holiday said...

I have a friend who lost her daughter and son in a fire that was started by an ex girl if the guy she was talking to so in a act of violents the girl killed innocent people to get back at a ex boyfriend

moneke ragsdale said...

Well written and I agree there are more aspects to tackle the increase acts of violence and murders. I do have a problem and how the officers are deployed when I drive pass them and see four cruiser around Cooper Hospital and four to five officers posted at Broadway & Mickle that appears to be crossing guards. Just like you, I haven't witness them do anything about the crowds that hang outside of the CFC. Not to mention that is a high crime area with several shootings and a murder. I've also notice that our Chief of police knows where are the high crime areas are surrounding the city, but makes me wonder why the police officers are deployed there until something vital happens. It sickens me to think that many of us blame our officers when we know that no one commits a crime when police are present. Another problem that get to me and the massive police protection at the concerts that simply hold up traffic and directs the crowds. Sometimes I have to make detours to get to my house. It seems as to me our officers that are sworn in to protect and serve is not serving or protecting our communities. Under the former chief, I remember how they will patrol broadway and stop and question individuals that they had reason doubt to approach. I never forget walking pass and the officer was question the a young lady who was publicly drinking and shouting out at cars going by. In addition the former chief did not have our officers crossing people along Mickle either. When you speak of leadership, that exactly what look to when things go downhill. It appears that we don't have anyone in leadership that want to help our city or residents rise and conquer. It appears that they don't want to promote businesses and organization that will promote tax revenue and employment. They the want to demand reform for our public education as I find everyone scrambling to demolish it. They don't want to create outlet and recreation that will help our children stay engage protect them from engaging in something negative. Every problem needs a solution, and yes most people that are involved in crimes usually listen to the ones that formally was involved in the crimes. (one speech of peace is not going to work). I have so many things that I love to share and assist. It hard to see the young people have no disregard to their lives or the lives of others. We don't even promote the simple things anymore, like goals and dreams. Trips to view different aspects of careers, people and scenery. I know everyone has a dream for college, but the realty is everyone is not for college. Their are so many career choices and I feel that we are not encouraging our children enough to keep them focus. I know people use the word change to reflect many things that our President Obama states. But if you really listen to his speeches you will notice that he has an explanation of the many things he addresses. The reason why people listen is because most of the changes he made was pure common sense.

It was wrong for our mayor to have the politics aboard ship. I wish she could have reached out to a powerful speaker that could have relate to our community. Even if she would of have information, a hotline, a grief counselor or something that could have contributed to the cause. It's shameful to say but we really need someone who will go above and beyond their way to cater to the need of the community.

I apologize for going all over the place. However, when I think about act of violence there are so many contributes that are involved. Theses are some issues that need to be address: Health, safety, recreation, employment, deployment, education and economic development.

Loc'd in Love said...

I agree however allow me to suggest that Mr.Kennedy isn't needed. There are members of the Camden community who have excellent, proven methods and programs that can be used to make a paradigm shift in the collective minds of the people. Look within your own city limits for what you need. Also I volunteered at that event. I was saddened to see how poorly attended to so many children were. There was a baby I refused to give back to the little girl who was caring for him. The baby about 18 months the girl about 7.She was with another girl around 10. The baby had no shoes or shirt on and was filthy, I had have my daughter clean him up because I couldn't look st him like that anymore. Mom left then there and went home. Who leaves their baby with babies? Future gang members. Why because clearly no one cares enough to protect them so they will seek love and acceptance in the street. Parents needed to be assaulted with resources, jobs education do they can build their self esteem and develop some self respect. That will translate into folks who take care of themselves, their children, their homes, neighborhoods, schools and city.KLP