DETROIT – In the midst of the pandemic and high racial tensions in cities across the country, Detroit is seeing an uptick in crime. The increase in crime has sparked a quiet, but spirited debate within the local Black community.
The question being raised is whether Black-on-Black crime should be protested the same way crimes against Blacks involving police or people of other backgrounds has been.
This summer marked a busy time for the Detroit Police Department. In just one June weekend, police chief James Craig noted there were 18 different shootings in the city. Fast forward to almost a month later in July, another span of violence.
A young man, shot four people inside of a Coney Island, three of them died. Then another young man fired shots into a car full of people at a gas station.
And then on Aug. 8, there was another shooting inside of a Coney Island. Two men shot multiple people inside the Detroit One Coney Island on Woodward Avenue in Midtown, one woman died.
Pastor Robert Bolden with Central Baptist Church personally knows about the violent crime. “I remember being a 15-year-old kid in Detroit and getting news that my 16-year-old brother had been killed in the streets of Detroit,” said Bolden.
There has been national coverage of protests in cases where African Americans have been killed at the hands of police or white men.
We’re talking about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor and now Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was shot seven times in the back leaving him paralyzed. Some think the Black community also needs protest Black-on-Black crimes.
“Honestly, I believe our community is divided about fifty-fifty on that issue. I talked to pastors. I talked to community leaders, business leaders and they’re all asking the question, what can we do to help this issue?” asked Bolden.
Other members of the community weighed in on the issue.
“Before we even start a conversation on the Black-on-Black crime, we have to look at what’s the root of that?” said Dr. Rose Moten with Bloom Transformation Center.
Moten has 22 years of experience as a licensed clinical psychologist. She’s also a racial healing specialist for an organization called New Detroit. Moten indicated the Black-on-Black crime narrative began in the 1980s. She said the cause of it all is poverty.
“One of the things that have been discovered is that individuals who tend to be perpetrators and victims of crime are usually overwhelmingly, suffering to conditions similar to PTSD, that is rooted and caused by poverty, extremely poverty, unemployment,” said Moten.
“I don’t think that there’s a Black person or any person who is not concerned with crime as a whole,” said Portia Roberson, director of Focus: HOPE.
She is also an attorney who believes that the two issues are important, but should be addressed separately.
“It’s not as if people don’t expect black people to be held accountable when they commit crimes against other Black people and they usually are. The problem is that in police incidents a lot of times, you don’t see people held accountable. You don’t see them arrested, you don’t see them charged. You see a trial where they end up being acquitted although the evidence maybe overwhelming,” said Roberson.
She added that while Detroit has not had this problem here, it has been the narrative across the country for years in cases like Mike Brown of Ferguson, where a grand jury chose not to indict the officer.
“I think it’s a false narrative to pretend as if you know because we’re not protesting a specific incident, that we’re not concerned about the crime that happens in communities,” she said.
This year has rocked the nation to its core. The world is fighting a global pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people died because of it, but the other two issues have been around for years, long before now. Those other two are racial injustice among Blacks and Black-on-Black crime. Protests have erupted across our country, including here in Detroit, after the death of Floyd.
Protests continue with the shooting of Blake in Wisconsin, another black man shot seven times in his back.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘A riot is the language of the unheard’ and ‘What is that America has failed to hear?’
The NAACP is marching on Washington once again, 57 years after the original march, still with the same mission. They are making sure their voices are never buried.
Kamilla Landrum, executive director of Detroit NAACP says this march is critical.
“I love the energy of everyone that is willing to uplift their voices and to make sure that we are in a space where the moment doesn’t die,” said Landrum.
Some believe Black-on-Black crime is also killing Blacks, but there’s very little outcry.
Local 4 News obtained crime numbers for the City of Detroit from August 2019 to August 2020. Violent crimes like homicides are up 24% compared to 2019, but sexual assaults, robberies, and carjackings all are down from 2019.
Landrum noted the lower numbers mean community outreach is working.
“I also think that a lot of times, the work that is being done within communities to address issues such as Black-on-Black crimes, even though I really don’t like that term, it doesn’t get the highlight. It doesn’t get the attention. There are many churches and community organizations that are always pushing for peace and unity. Pushing for youth deterrent programs, when they don’t have any opportunities,” said Landrum.
Moten was asked what she thought could help end Black-on-Black crime.
She sent this statement, “Implement more accessible community programs to promote emotional and mental wellness and heal trauma. The traumatized mind is disconnected and often times lacks empathy which makes heinous acts more likely to occur.”
Pastor Marvin Winans of Perfecting Church in Detroit said the church has a role to play as well.
“If you go back and look at John Lewis, and Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr. and Hosea Williams, you will find that there were reverends in front of all of their names, because the answer has to come out of the church,” he said.
Winans is a well known gospel singer and preacher. He says that answer is prayer, but prayer must be followed with actions.
“Are there political solutions, are there laws that need to be passed, oh absolutely. Do I believe that there is systematic racism, absolutely. A lot of people say we need to fix, no we need to destroy, because it’s not broke, when we see these things happening, it’s not too far from our past,” he added.
The following Detroit based organizations listed here are at the forefront of the fight: