Saturday, September 15, 2007

Closer to Bagdad Than You Might Think

It's called sectarian violence when it happens in Iraq. And it happens every day. One tribal leader demands revenge upon another rival group. As I write this a headline just pop-ed up on my Yahoo News widget Baghdad car bomb strikes bakery; 11 dead.

The article reads in part that the Shi'ite dominated "al-Qaida warned it will hunt down and kill Sunni Arab tribal leaders, saying the assassination of the leader of the revolt against the terror movement was just a beginning."

But I'm actually writing today about Philadelphia, the "City of Brotherly Love," where rival gang violence has led to a record 284 homicides so far this year, almost all young black men killing young black men. Sylvester Johnson, the visionary and very brave Chief of Police of Philadelphia has admitted the violence is out of control and he has neither the man power nor the cooperation of the citizens of Philadelphia to even begin to solve the problem.

Homicide Map Philadelphia's Channel 10, the local NBC affiliate has created an amazing yet terrifying interactive map of the cities homicides this year. The HOMICIDE MAP shows the exact location of every homicide, usually with the name, date and even a photograph of the victim. It takes a while for this powerful tool to upload, but it is stunning!

The escalation of crime, prostitution and drug use is fueling the gang violence and a cultural "Don't Snitch" ethic, heavily reinforced by today's rap musicians, virtually prevents the police from ever solving a crime.

But Chief Sylvester Johnson, who is also black, is trying to bring about a cultural charge and save the city from its transition into an American version of Ambar Provence.
MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press Writer wrote yesterday:

"It's time for African-American men to stand up,"
"We have an obligation to protect our women, our children and our elderly. We're going to put men on the street. We're going to train them in conflict resolution." Johnson told the Philadelphia Daily News, which first reported the story Wednesday.

The program's backers include Dennis Muhammad, a former Nation of Islam official who has been hired by police departments in Detroit, Syracuse, N.Y., and other cities to conduct community-sensitivity training.

Johnson plans to introduce the "Call to Action: 10,000 Men, It's a New Day" program on Oct. 21, three months before his planned retirement.

"He won't get anywhere near that number. If he gets 1,000 people, it will be great," said Heather DeRussy, who leads a local Guardian Angels chapter that has recruited just seven members in the past two years. Given its size, the group focuses on a single north Philadelphia park plagued by prostitution and drug use.

DeRussy lauded Johnson for his effort but said she fears the volunteers will find it dangerous to patrol their home turf.

"In their own neighborhoods, with the 'Don't snitch' mentality, they're kind of putting themselves in harm's way, because there are going to be people who disagree with what they're doing," DeRussy said.

As we sit back in our easy-chairs and watch the violence in Bagdad, a half a world away, we simply don't understand how such horrific violence could be done by one sectarian group against another. We feel insulated. And,dare I say it.... we feel "superior." Perhaps we even say to ourselves "It can't happen here."

For sure Philadelphia's 284 homicides this year is only two weeks worth of violence in Bagdad. And yet it is so easy for such violence to become a way of life. It's easy to lose control.

In the end Johnson is so very right. We must take a stand for our community. "We have an obligation to protect our women, our children and our elderly."

And our very future.

Let's hope Chief Johnson's plan works. Let's hope he can reawaken a sense of "community" in Philadelphia.

Just a footnote..... Last night's 11 o'clock news on Philadelphia's NBC Channel 10:

Teen Sought In 15-Year-Old's Fatal Stabbing

A 15-year-old was fatally stabbed Friday night, and police were looking for a 16-year-old in connection with the attack, NBC 10 reported.

Police said the stabbing occurred on the 2300 block of Edgely Street in North Philadelphia.

The victim apparently ran into a house after being wounded in the chest and was then rushed by ambulance to Temple University Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

At the scene of the attack, a knife was visible on the ground near a bag of chips, NBC 10 reported.

There was no immediate word from police on a motive or arrest.

ADDENDUM (9/16/2007 8:00 am):

I want to strongly recommend all readers go over to an amazing analysis of BOTH the problem of gang violence in America's inner cities AND the situation in Iraq, Iran and the middle east written by Dr. M (Marvin X) in Oakland, California. While I have done little more than identify the problem, Marvin X has both identified the causes and a prescription for possible solutions (in both Iraq and our troubled cities). It's a stunningly brilliant analysis! READ: Baghdad by the Bay By Dr. M (Marvin X)

And yes, this is the same Dr. M (Marvin X), legendary Black leader, activist, playwright and poet. Read a short biography here.

1 comment:

Vigilante said...

Read, and appreciated, Wizard.