By Karen Stokes
Milwaukeeans need a break from the breaking news reports of the endless stream of shootings. This year has already been a horrific year of gun violence.
The following events occurred in the past week alone:
On Saturday, Oct. 2 in the Sherman Park neighborhood, a gunman in a passing vehicle shot into a family car hitting a 5 -year-old girl and an 11-year-old girl. The 11-year-old died from her injuries.
On Thursday, Oct. 7, a quadruple shooting near Eighth and Cherry Streets left three people dead and one in critical condition.
On Friday Oct. 8, a man was fatally shot near MLK and Garfield.
On Sunday Oct. 10, a man was shot on Sherman Boulevard.
Unfortunately, the list continues.
In a press conference earlier this week, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said, “We have to do better and I know we can do better. It is going to take the efforts of many, many, many people in this community, but I am committed, as are those individuals who work in our offices of violence prevention, those individuals who work in the police department, to do what we can to end these senseless shootings.”
According to the Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee had a historically violent year with a total of 190 homicides in 2020, which is almost double the homicides from 2019.
Milwaukee is on track in 2021 to exceed 2020 numbers.
Faith Britton lives in the Marquette neighborhood and has seen gun violence firsthand.
“There was a drive-by shooting between two cars right in front of my driveway,” Britton said. “I had just gotten home from work and one of the bullets penetrated my second story bedroom wall.”
Through the first five months of 2021, gunfire killed more than 8,100 people in the United States, about 54 lives lost per day, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the Gun Violence Archive.
Some experts believe the rise in shootings ties in with an increase in gun sales caused by the confinement of individuals due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment and disputes hastily being settled by gunfire are additional reasons for the increase.
Gun violence is a complicated problem desperate for a solution and it touches everyone in the community, directly and indirectly.
On Thursday, Oct. 7, I was talking to a 25-year-old Milwaukee man and asked him if he has personally been affected by gun violence, he told me no. That conversation took place at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. Later that night, he called me to tell me that his friend was just shot and killed.
“It’s scary but we have to be the change we want to see,” Britton said.
In 2019, the grandson of Janice Gorden, the founder of Victims of Milwaukee Violence, was shot four times in the back. The shooter claimed self-defense.
Neighbors heard the shots and called 911.
“The bullets went through his entire body, two through the lung, one through the liver and one through the leg. Thank God he lived,” said Gorden. “He was in the hospital for two weeks. He’s functional now, he works, but lives with pain at his side.”
Victims of Milwaukee Violence launched in 2015, and has helped over 900 families.
“I work with people that are victims and families of loved ones who have been murdered,” Gorden said. “I also work with domestic violence victims.”
If you need resources, assistance or information you can reach Gorden at www.victimsofmke.com
“I truly believe that we can overcome the challenges of crime, violence, and disorder in our community if we stand up and find the courage and the will to do it,” Sheriff Earnell Lucas said in a press release.”
Mabel Lamb, executive director of Sherman Park Community Association works directly in the community and for the community and sees the devastation and frustration of the people in the neighborhood concerning gun the latest shooting tragedy in Sherman Park.
“Citizens need to take ownership of their block and neighborhood,” Lamb said. “Residents, leaders and block watch captains need to meet with other residents to come up with a plan for safety on their block and encourage each other to call. When they see something, say something.”
Lamb continued, “Residents need to start engaging in crime and safety meetings that each police district hosts that discuss trends happening in their neighborhoods. Leaders need to host meetings for the community to engage and work with neighborhoods to build better relationships with police to help build better trust.”
Dr. Wesley Carter, senior pastor, Restoration Christian Church stated, “The church can pray, and join block parties. The block parties will become more as a family involvement for testimonies, prayer and offering salvation. Monthly meetings in the most affected neighborhoods can work to find out the root causes of the violence.”
“We must develop a system of education where children from every neighborhood can reach their full potential,” Lucas said. “We must ensure that access to quality, affordable health care is attainable for every family in our community. We must find ways to match employers seeking workers with skilled workers –and those willing to learn– from the community.”