“I don’t feel like, as a resident in an apartment complex, you should be paying basically for your grave site,” he said. “You shouldn’t be paying to be killed or murdered in your own house.”
Brave words from 19-year-old Ravon Jordan who, last July, found the courage, to address the Fayetteville, North Carolina City Council on behalf of his best friend, Shaniqua Simmons. Simmons and her boyfriend were gunned down in a local apartment complex, the Cambridge Arms. Their deaths marked the second double homicide at the 694-unit complex since January, 2014. Jordan’s view was that the complex should be shut down.
The daily shock and awe of news media coverage associated with the latest high profile act of gun violence in communities throughout the United States has become a sad but true norm in our nation’s culture. Even some of our allies on the international stage increasingly view America as a nation riven with out of control gun violence—so much so some suggest that we’re the ones in need of an intervention for the ‘civil war’ that’s occurring on America’s streets.
As someone who lost a brother to gun violence when I was 21-years-old, I carry a visceral form of empathy and concern for the young people who survive in the aftermath of such unimaginable horror. The grief is searing for the victims’ parents, siblings and their friends. It never goes away. After all, the American dream was originally built on a sense of up-by-our-boot-straps, joie de vivre. Ours was a culture that prided itself on hard work and nose-to-the-grind determination. For the most part, those of us in the baby boom generation had that basic sense of security passed on to us from prior generations.
Not so for this generation of young people demographers call millennials.
In February, the Center for American Progress published, “Young Guns: How Gun Violence is Devastating the Millennial Generation.” Its lead coverage included this sobering fact, “American children and teenagers are four times more likely to die by gunfire than their counterparts in Canada, seven times more likely than young people in Israel, and 65 times more likely to be killed with a gun than children and teenagers in the United Kingdom.” Their research also noted that “while guns play a role in so many deaths of America’s youth, very few public health research dollars are spent to understand the causes of this epidemic and develop policy solutions to address it.”
In my first post as a Village Ambassador, it saddens me that this subject, right now, is as fit for discussion and civic engagement as ever. I file this story in the shadow of the grief, outrage and escalating level of fierce protests, and some acts of violence, born out of the police-related shooting of another unarmed African American male youth. The incident, this time, occurred on Saturday, August 9, in a suburb in St. Louis, Missouri. Thankfully, there are a few eyewitness reports about what took place between 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed, and a still unidentified police officer. Leaders from the Congressional Black Caucus and President Barack Obama have released statements urging calm while also seeking answers from local St. Louis law enforcement officials.
For now, there does not appear to be a clear path forward to remove gun-related violence from the lives of millennials or, even, our broader culture. Let’s hope the brilliant minds and civic determination of those who lead our nation can lay aside their differences and chart a rational way forward with respect to gun policy in our nation.
Our next generation is counting on us.