Black Family Summit
Standing For Peace And Justice Against Rampant Killings in Black Communities
National Rally to Focus on Homicide as a “Major Public Health Crisis”
Washington, DC, June 3, 2015….Black families across the country are being traumatized and whole neighborhoods are being destroyed by an epidemic of homicide that’s sweeping the nation and thousands plan to gather in Washington DC on Saturday, June 6 to demand that the country’s political leaders develop a public policy agenda that addresses homicide as a public health crisis.
Led by Mothers in Charge (MIC), a grass roots Philadelphia-based organization with chapters in six states, families and community residents from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Washington DC are expected to gather at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday morning to draw attention to homicide as a national tragedy.
Two dozen organizations that are members of the Institute of the Black World’s (IBW) Black Family Summit, along with several other national organizations from around the country are supporting the MIC’s Washington rally under the banner of “Standing for Peace and Justice.”
“Murder has claimed the lives of our loved ones, traumatized our families, and damaged our neighborhoods and communities for too long,” said Dorothy Johnson-Speight, executive director of Mothers in Charge, who lost her son to senseless violence a few years ago. “We call on all people of good will to stand with us to reduce the violence and heal our communities as we stand and speak for those who speak no more.”
Leading up to Saturday’s national rally, the organizers have put out a “call to action” not only to the public policy makers but also to members of the business, health care, education, faith-based and non-profit sectors to increase awareness of homicide and violence and to expand research, programming and funding related to this epidemic.
Recent studies indicate that homicide is the leading cause of death among African-American men ages 15-34 in the United States. Most of these cases are preventable. In the USA, the rate of unintentional death for children under the age of 18 is 10 times higher than the rate in other industrialized countries. The likelihood of a youth being murdered in the USA is 13 times higher than in other industrialized democracies.
Homicide and gun violence have severely impacted both the mental health and physical safety of community residents, particularly in the inner cities of America. Exposure to violence has been linked to depression, to domestic abuse, to increased rates of aggression, to forms of anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress and to physical conditions such as asthma and obesity.
“Our children are not innately more violent than children in other advanced countries,” says Dr. Ron Daniels, President of the Institute of the Black World (IBW). “The use of violence is a learned response. The presence and easy access to illegally-owned guns means that when our children and youth have disputes, rather than a fist fight, it has become a gun fight. Compared to other industrialized countries, the widespread presence of handguns accounts for these statistical differences in youth homicide, murder and injury.”
To build momentum for the June 6 rally on the Mall organizers will convene a Congressional Forum slated for Friday, June 5th at the Rayburn Office Building (Basement B-18, 9am-Noon) to discuss strategies for policies and programs that address homicide as a public health crisis.
Led by Cong. Danny Davis of Chicago and supported by Cong. John Conyers of Detroit, a panel of legal experts, advocates and persons who have been impacted by homicidal violence will focus on advancing legislation and expanding trauma and community-based services for victims of homicide.
Organizers say that access to such services requires sustained commitment and coordination across diverse partners, sectors and stakeholders.
Integral to prevention and reduction efforts is changing societal norms and values. The issue of homicide goes beyond an “urban problem” and encompasses US society’s tolerance for violence, for racial discrimination and for rampant inequalities in the areas of income, housing and education, all of which are contributing factors to gun violence which takes the lives of some 30 youth per day in the USA.
“With our Call to Action we are emphasizing the need to act now to solve the major public health crisis of homicide,” said Johnson-Speight. “To reduce homicide and violence in our communities we need public policies that support our efforts on the ground. Our youth must be protected from senseless violence and death and adequate investments need to be made in the research of trauma and in public education around this crisis.”
Don Rojas, Director of Communications, IBW
Phone: 410-844-1031; 877-304-6667
Web sites: www.mothersincharge.org: www.ibw21.org.
Research ♦ Policy ♦ Advocacy
View these video clips of presentations at the Congressional Forum
Defining “Harm” in African-American Communities
Protecting Black Children and Preserving Black Families
Defining harm for African American children, families and communities is complex due to the need for a thorough and tailored assessment with consideration of its contextual factors (i.e., culture, level, target behaviors) and their potentially transactional nature. The parameters of harm depend on various factors, including culture, level (e.g., individual, community, and societal) and the constellation of targeted behaviors in the context of which harm is considered. From a cultural perspective, harm must be understood within the interlocking domains of person, family, neighborhood, community and history in which Black children are situated. Factors of harm include: 1) the continued impact of enslavement, contemporary and historical trauma upon the Black Psyche; 2) the disproportionality of Black children entering stranger foster care; 3) the negative social and community impacts upon the Black family of the War on Drugs, and the subsequent mass incarceration of Black men and women; and 4) using limited cultural definitions of family and making that definition universal to all families. On a personal level, harm is reflected in historical, physical, emotional, and social contexts.
Historically, children who are cut off from their historical legacies experience harm from the perspective of foreshortened sense of value, purpose and identity. There are limited personal and/or community-based interventions used or developed dealing with the long or short-term effects of enslavement and historical trauma, leading to under-addressed and unresolved emotional and behavioral conflicts, lack of self and communal validation, and devalued senses of dignity and agency. Physically, children often suffer from impoverished environments, poor or unhealthy food options, lack of exercise, and chaotic neighborhoods. Emotionally, children are cut off from supportive biological family contexts, extended families and healthy communities (removed from families of origins, placed in out-of-home pipeline, and discouraged from emotional expressiveness) leading to the suppression of IQ potential. Socially, children often have limited involvement in pro-social activities (including but not limited to art, music, exercise, other creative outlets), and viewing all families from a health perspective.
On a community level, harm is reflected in the quality of living environments – access to sustainable quality foodstuffs; adequate lighting, trash removal, transportation; and protection from negative environmental influences. On the societal level, harm is reflected in the lack of viable economic opportunities to provide essential quality of life needs including available quality educational resources – safe schools, caring teachers, quality educational technology – and safe neighborhoods and communities.
Black families and communities often feel under assault due to the arbitrary and disproportionate removal of Black Children by foster care and other child welfare agencies on the basis of “protecting” them from “harm” by parents who may suffer from substance abuse or addiction issues. The Black Family Summit, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) and the Drug Policy alliance believe that such arbitrary and culturally insensitive policies actually increase the harm to Black children and families. Therefore the definition of “harm” presented is intended to reverse this practice by suggesting a framework for policies which will be holistic, culturally appropriate and designed to heal Black families and communities.
“IBW and our Black Family Summit are pleased to collaborate with the Drug Policy Alliance on this press conference and media briefing about a critical subject that’s key to the future welfare of Black children and families across the country,” said Dr. Ron Daniels, President of the Institute of the Black World. “It is propitious that this press briefing is happening at a time when the great City of Baltimore is in the midst of a profound crisis where the question of public safety for African-American youth is front and center to the unfolding events.”
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