Check out this data on violence and how it affects black men and boys:
- According to the 2010 Census the black population is 12.6% of the US Population
- Leading cause of death of ALL men ages 15-29 is unintentional death (car accident, fire arm, drowning etc.), suicide, and homicide. KFF
- The leading cause of death for BLACK MEN ages 15-29 is homicide. KFF
- Black men represent 40% of the prison population which is 7 times that of white men. KFF
- From 1985-1991 homicide rates among 15-19 year olds increased by 154% particularly among young black men. CDC
- In 1985 The Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health was released and underscores the importance of addressing interpersonal violence as a public health issue and identifies homicide as a major contributor to health disparities among African Americans. CDC
Black Benefactors & Community Investment Network
I had the opportunity to attend a conference last weekend March 10-11, 2012 at the Wardam Marriott Hotel in DC during the National League of Cities meetings. I attended the “Cities United: Building Communities to Reduce Violent Deaths Among Black Men and Boys.” It was through the Community Investment Network a larger network of the giving circles like the one I am a member of, Black Benefactors, that I became aware of the event. You may remember Black Benefactors from your August 2011 subscription of Ebony where the organization was featured on two pages discussing how giving circles work. When contacted by founder and friend, Tracey Webb about the opportunity to attend the conference I cleared my schedule.
Over the past few years I have made my way from Northwest to Southeast across the District handing out condoms, talking to people on the street about issues, navigating “the system.” It is nothing compared to horrific stories that I have seen and heard from police, victims, bystanders, and anyone who dares to speak about violence in the community.
Tracking homicide data in DC
I spent over an hour attempting to track down comprehensive data from various sources on homicide victims in the District of Columbia and unfortunately the Government does not track/provide the information. Homicide Watch DC launched in September of 2010 is the only known data source in the District tracking and publishing homicides in District.
According to Homicide Watch DC, from 2010-current most deaths occurred from ages 16-31 keeping in mind that this is only categorized by age. After scrolling through each DC homicide victim, the overwhelming majority (without number crunching numbers) appears to be well over 90% black males. Even more disturbing listed in the “Latest news,” is a former fellow member of my Columbia Heights church, Prince Okorie, who died last year after being shot in the head twice.
While there were many opportunities at the conference to network, data share, plan, and discuss policy changes etc. I was most inspired with the screening of the documentary “The Interrupters,” from the director of Hoop Dreams, which recently premiered at theSundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah (I’m originally from SLC, Utah by the way).
The Interrupters tells a story that is all to familiar to similar events I see on the streets of DC daily. The documentary shows how 3 “Violence Interrupters”- Cobe Williams (pictured with me below), Ameena Matthews, and Eddie Bocanegra intervene on the streets of Chicago daily to prevent and stop violence. Why do I love this documentary? Many reasons include my love for speaking to people on street and connecting them with services, getting involved in various situations that for many would refer to as “dramatic,” but most importantly feeling like you might have made a difference in improving someone’s life.
The Interrupters follow a very strategic public health model called Project CeaseFire created by Epidemiologist and physician Gary Slutkin. Summary below taken from CeaseFire website- www.CeaseFireChicago.org
CeaseFire is a unique, interdisciplinary, public health approach to violence prevention. We maintain that violence is a learned behavior that can be prevented using disease control methods. Using proven public health techniques, the model prevents violence through a three-prong approach:
- Identification and detection
- Interruption, intervention, and risk reduction
- Changing behaviors and norms
If you have ever been one of 56 people cc’ed in an ongoing e-mail regarding city services to improve public safety in an area that is known to promote violence (7th & T, NW) or are a police officer that I have spent hours picking their brain about effective police strategies, a Government official that I refuse to stop calling, or most importantly the guys I know around the way that I continue to come back to, follow-up with, and ask my typical “public health type” of questions you might understand because, public health approaches to preventing violence work. If you don’t believe me you can ask my new friends: Cobe Williams, CeaseFire: Chicago and Lavon Walker & Marlon Peterson, CeaseFire: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY.