By Camille Davis, Special to the AFRO
“D.C. SPEAKS” is a series of local storytelling in communities around the District. The AFRO has taken to the streets once again and reached back into neighborhoods to offer residents an opportunity to share their experiences, stories, passions and opinions. Through interviews and submissions the AFRO is amplifying voices from all over D.C. and encouraging residents to “SPEAK”.
In one week alone, since the beginning of the month, there have been three murders in Washington, D.C. The victim’s ages range from 19 to 28. There seems to be no reason as to why these killings continue to occur, and District residents are not confident that it will end anytime soon.
Born-and-raised in D.C., Jamal Farmer, 27, and Jamar Griffith, 26, remain unconvinced that any programs are helping to stop the violence in the nation’s capital. They are, however, hopeful that a change will come.
As a Southeast resident, Farmer, attributes District killings to lack of programs for the youth. “The less there is for the youth, it’s just going to keep happening,” he told the AFRO. “The gun violence has always been prevalent. It’s just more highlighted now, and ever since gentrification, it’s being way more highlighted than back in the day. I don’t think it will.” Farmer added.
Griffith, a Northwestern resident, says there’s a disconnect between programs like “Cease Fire. Don’t Smoke the Brothers & Sisters,” in Ward 4, and the young people they’re trying to positively influence.
“It should be more young people in certain things [programs], that should help out more young people. When all ‘old folks’ are in it, young people don’t want to come to that. If it’s more welcoming to the young folks, that’s when the change will come.”
Griffith said killings in the city, of African-American people specifically, is a generational issue, and it will take each generation to combat the problem. “That’s when the next generation will come through and help out the following generation because at the end of the day, we can relate to each other. We’re on two different frequencies. When the younger generation says ‘I’m tired of this. I’m tired of our young kids dying;’ the younger generation can understand that the generation before them have been through the same struggle, that you came out the same situations I came out. There’s more of a blueprint.”
While progress is being made, it seems citywide there is a lack of faith within the Black culture.
Southeast resident, Ka’Trin Judkins, 29, is confident this isn’t a D.C. issue; but instead, a societal issue. “Let’s start with the root of the problem. Any Black person growing up in the inner city already has everything against them, she told the AFRO. “We grow up wanting these rich objects… cars and clothes. Anytime you have rich people and poor people growing up in proximity, there’s always going to be violence. That’s why there is so much hate… Because you got what I don’t got, and if you got it, I’m [going to] take it from you.”
“Until we understand that the things that we think are valuable are not actually as valuable, then violence will never stop. There’s no program that can stop that. It’s a mentality thing. It’s a societal thing,” Judkins added.
Judkins’ remedy to the violence is in the home.
“Stopping violence starts with the homes and the environment that these people are in. It’s kind of naïve to think that only one program can stop violence. Stopping violence starts with the mentality of us, period.” She continues, “Until we can go home and understand history and ourselves, I don’t think any programs can help us stop the violence. People don’t even understand why they’re committing this violence or why this violence even happens. It’s a program issue. It’s not just something that’s a D.C. problem; this is inner city period. Black-on-Black crime starts with the mentality of Black people.”
When asked to comment on the three deaths in the District over the past week, Founder and Executive Director of Cease Fire. Don’t Smoke The Brothers & Sisters, Brother Al-Malik Farrakhan, said, “Check the statistics. Since 1999, you’ll see an overall decrease in killing in Ward Four. It’s a proven fact that for our area, the murder rate is going down.”