News

February 2021

‘I’m saddened by it’: Black community leaders discuss crime, solutions to prevent another violent year

Courtesy of WBNS 10TV
By Lacey Crisp
February 12, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As of Feb. 12, 27 people have lost their lives because of homicides in Columbus this year. Of those, 25 were Black.

In those homicides, Columbus police have identified 15 suspects; all but one is Black.

10TV held a roundtable with three local Black leaders to discuss the violence.

Jerry Saunders, the CEO of Africentric Personal Development:

“I will tell you how I’m feeling when I see these numbers. I’m saddened by it because of the loss of life because I know how it’s impacting the family, the other members of the families.”

Stephanie Hightower, the president of the Columbus Urban League:

“A lot of folks are talking about this Black on Black crime that is happening, but we have to talk about trauma and how the African American community has been traumatized over the years.”

Saunders:

“They have a lifestyle where they are taking into their own hands how to respond to issues. They are not trusting the police, or anyone else. They have their own little community that is going on in terms of addressing issues.”

Chris Suel, the program manager for My Brother’s Keeper:

“These kids have gone through a year of on-line learning, being in a house which culturally, we weren’t prepared for that. On top of the poverty, on top of the systemic issues we are facing with, it’s a perfect storm.”

Saunders:

“We have a 55% solvability rate. That means if there are 20 homicides, then we are talking 10 of those individuals who created the homicide are still out there in the community. There is a chance they will kill again or they will be killed.”

Hightower:

“What we have to do as a society and as a community is to figure out is how do we address the historic perspectives and then what is happening with this pandemic to help our community to heal.”

Suel:

“A lot of what we have done at MBK is preventative work that allows us to build this community of caring. It is going to take programming. It’s going to take the community to step in as well because a lot of the things that are happening are because of the environment these kids are coming from.”

10TV asked what is one thing that can be done to prevent another record-setting year for homicides?

Hightower:

“There needs to be a community forum with our young people.  How do we bring our young people, even if it is virtual?  How do we bring our community forum with our young people? We need to hear their voices. They need to know their voices matter.”

Suel:

“You saw it this summer with our youth, as we continue to move forward as adults give them the platform to lead. Give them the toolkit that this is what you need to do.”

Hightower, Suel and Saunders argue there needs to be youth programs in place to direct kids away from crime.

They say until the pandemic is over and there is permanent funding for those programs, it will be difficult.

The three believe it will take everyone from the community to work together and prevent another record-setting year of violence.

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