Are we crying still? Are we again outraged? Do we even still care? In July of 2007, 3 promising college students were gunned down behind Mount Vernon in the Vailsburg section of Newark, NJ. A part of town where ghastly murders usually do not occur. As a city we got angry, cried and rallied against violent crime and even called for the resignation of the mayor, because his promise of making Newark a safer city has not yet materialized. We thought Iofemi Hightower, Dashawn Harvey, and Terrance Aeriel would be the wake-up call. Yet, two months later we’ve experience 15 more murders and at least 3 of the victims have been under 21-years-of-age.
Marquis Shoulders, a student at Westside High School, who many said was good kid, had his life ended after an argument with someone in a car that pulled up on the street where he stood, in front of a middle school in the Vailsburg section. But what is so much colder than the way in which he was killed, is the aftermath of his death. There are no protests down town on the steps of city hall. There are no calls for the mayor’s resignation. There is no increase in county or state police presence. No one is crying any more. No one is angry. Newark has fallen back into its complacent feeling about violence, and has once again come to accept that murder is simply apart of our lives.
I remember talking to someone during a conference in March, in Minneapolis Minnesota with someone who was from Chicago. He asked me, “is it that bad in Newark”, and I replied without hesitation, “yes”. Someone who was with me, who is an older guy who loves Newark, and never likes to speak about it in a negative light, sounded much like Police Director Gary McCarthy. He replied by saying, “that its not random killings and little children, but its gang members, drug dealers; people who are involved in crime”. However, my assertions and beliefs have been validated all year. And that is that bullets have no names, crime is random in Newark, and much of the city is in chaos. An 8 year was shot, a 3 year old, a 70 year old woman, the 3 gruesome murders behind Mt. Vernon, the 20 year old on Elizabeth Avenue and Meeker Street, the 16 year old boy on Pennington Street, the man who was killed by his son, the man shot to death on Smith Street the same weekend as the Mount Vernon incident, and the woman who was stabbed to death by her step son. There are so many being shot and killed and its a shame that I can name this many instances without looking into the newspaper, or knowing any of the inviduals personally. Many of these individuals weren’t involved in violence, or drugs, or gangs, or general crime, but they live in a city where they struggle and simple disputes turn deadly, as quickly as the second-hand on a clock turns.
My hope is that someone sees the light, and politicians stop making heavy handed speeches about what it is that they’re going to do and speak honestly to people. The honesty should be that without the help of the community at large, nothing will take shape. Not to mention, in one term as mayor, Cory Booker couldn’t hope to stem the tide that has been rising murder for the past 5 years. With 3 months left in the year, we could easily see 105 murders again this year. How do we make sure that doesn’t happen?