So what’s life like in 75 percent black Birmingham, Alabama, roughly 56 years after the civil rights movement started wresting racial control of the city from whites to blacks?
[Birmingham declares gun violence public health crisis; city launches new ways to fight back, Birmingham News, 2-28-19]:
The City of Birmingham on Thursday announced an anti-gun violence campaign and declared gun violence a public health crisis for the city and Jefferson County.
Mothers and loved ones of those killed from gun violence in Birmingham stood with Mayor Randall Woodfin and the city council, all of them wearing black T-shirts that read “Increase Peace.”
“When I was asked to be part of this, it touched my heart. Being a mother who lost a child to gun violence in this city, it’s devastating,” said Carolyn Johnson. Johnson’s son, Rodreckus, was fatally shot at a party in November 2003.
“My son was going to a party and I expected him to come back home. But a bullet has no name on it. It’s going to take all of us banding together to tackle this thing that’s plaguing our communities. It was my house. It could be your house next.”
Johnson, along with several other women, will be featured in a series of video public service announcements from the city about the campaign.
Gun violence: a public health crisis
Dr. Mark Wilson, Health Officer for the Jefferson County Department of Health, declared gun violence a public health crisis in Jefferson County and vowed to help the city in its efforts.
Wilson cited statistics showing 90 percent of all Birmingham homicides involve guns; 86 percent of those victims are black.
“If one group more than others is affected such that makes a health disparity, and if it’s preventable, we should make a special effort to address it. Violence is one of those things,” Wilson said.
But the culture of violence is complex. There aren’t simple solutions to the issue, he said.
“If we have one part of our community that’s suffering from disease, premature death or violence, it’s affecting all of us,” Wilson said. “The Jefferson County Department of Health stands ready to work with others to address this problem. We don’t have all the answers, but we are committed to supporting the city and others in this effort. Willing to be put resources and people into that effort.”
Neighborhood block watch programs
Woodfin urged residents to get involved with an existing or to start a neighborhood block watch program in their neighborhood.
For those who aren’t already involved, he said one of the leaders of these programs called “crime prevention officers” will be at each of the four Birmingham police precincts every Thursday from 2 to 5 p.m. to help residents start a block watch program in their neighborhood or get involved with an existing one.
“Be the eyes and additional ears for your block and your neighborhood,” he said. “These are small steps to make a big impact.”
The city is also joining in the national Stop the Bleed campaign to teach people how to stop heavy bleeding to hopefully prevent loss of life. Woodfin said UAB Hospital officials will be holding classes for residents at city recreation centers beginning in mid-March.
It’s called the “Tragic City” for a reason.
The state of Alabama is still overwhelmingly white, with your stereotypical white Alabamian owning plenty of firearms. Yet, gun violence in the state – be it in Montgomery, Mobile, Auburn, Opelika, Huntsville, or Birmingham – almost always has a black suspect.
Until America is willing to have an honest conversation about race and guns (instead of a monologue, where white America is told we must give up our 2nd Amendment rights), we will continue to see once proud and prosperous cities, such as Birmingham, struggle with gun violence.