By Elinor Tatum
Mass shootings have become a sad and chronic part of life in America. The shock and anger we feel upon learning of yet another attack have become like an involuntary reflex for most of us and all too often we can only remember the names of the perpetrators and not the victims, their families or even their communities. But what has had a lesser focus, yet more deadly results, are the daily incidents of gun violence in Black and brown communities across America. Every day the news leads with the shootings that have occurred in the prior hours. Over the July 4th holiday weekend in New York City there were 52 people shot in 36 separate incidents, and 9 were killed. The numbers in Chicago for the same weekend were even higher.
Each day, on average, 30 Black Americans are killed by guns, and in New York City in 2020, 90% of gun victims were Black or Hispanic according to Everytown For Gun Safety.
But afterwards, we rarely hear anything else about the shooting that happened in the Pink houses, or East New York, or in Harlem, or the South Bronx. We don’t hear about what is going on in the communities where the violence is erupting, where our children are dying. We know it is happening, we see it every day, we live it every day. And we at the Amsterdam News try our best to cover it every week, but we know we must to do better.
It is easy to write that six people were shot on a summer weekend but it is much harder to explain how the families of these victims have been shattered and their communities torn apart. It is simple to quote statistics as if each number was not an individual dream erased, a hope snuffed out at the end of a barrel of a gun.
And for far too many of us, especially in the media, it is too easy to demand that the perpetrators be found, but never hold prosecutors or elected officials to account when fewer than half of gun murders and less than a third of non fatal shootings were cleared by the NYPD in 2020.
We know that gun violence impacts more than just the victims and perpetrators. Each shot fired ripples out, harming families and schools, disrupting businesses and the ability of our communities to function. Each child killed, each mother murdered, every neighborhood shaken tears at our civic fabric, leaving us unable to fight the poverty and racism which keeps our communities down.
For too long our politicians and pundits have looked at the violence ravaging our communities and have shaken their heads, promising to “get tough” and then doing nothing. They would have us believe that the deaths of Black and brown Americans is inevitable; that the daily drumbeat of shootings and killings is endemic.
But we know better.
We know that there are solutions and we see some that are working. We know that people like Erica Ford at Life Camp and AT Michell of Man Up and now the official New York City “Gun Czar”are working day in and day out to change our streets. They make a difference and are changing lives. But the resources they need are not being allocated. We know Jackie Rowe Adams and Harlem Mothers Save is out there working with families who have lost children to violence.
These leaders are part of the solution, but our teachers, our schools, our parks, our healthcare, our politicians, our police and our communities all have a role to play in preventing what has become a daily catastrophe in our communities.
That is why we have created our initiative “Beyond the Barrel of the Gun: Reducing Gun Violence In Black and Brown Communities by Empowering Solutions.” For over a decade the New York Amsterdam News, America’s most influential and oldest continuously published Black newspaper, has recognized the gun violence epidemic for what it is: a public health crisis.
Through our Beyond the Barrel of the Gun initiative, the New York Amsterdam News will be instrumental in raising awareness not just of the root causes of this epidemic but of how gun violence can be reduced in Black and brown communities in New York City and nationwide. This three year, three million dollar initiative, when fully funded, will be the largest ever investment in Black media on this issue.
With our visionary approach we will embed journalists in change making, frontline organizations and produce thought provoking national research and reporting as well as bring together, researchers, community leaders, victims, lawmakers, media and general public to facilitate further change and growth in the hopes of healing the wounds of decades of violence.
We ask you now, as our loyal readers and supporters, to join us as we embark on our journey to change the shape of journalism and gun violence coverage as we bring to you Beyond the Barrel of the Gun.