By Louisiana Weekly | June 6, 2022

The heart-wrenching murder of Mrs. Augustine Greenwood, 80, in Xavier University’s Convocation Center parking lot last Tuesday is the last damn straw! The mother of six and grandmother to 15 was there to witness her grandson, Corey Lashley Jr., graduate from Morris Jeff High School. They walked to the car and planned to go to a celebratory dinner when shots rang out. Ms. Greenwood got caught in the crossfire of a hail of bullets. Police reported the incident started as a fight between two young women and escalated into 5-12 shots being fired. Two men were also injured.

We have to step up, as a people, as a community. We can’t let Ms. Greenwood’s death or that of countless others be in vain.

If Black Lives truly matter, we must care about each other. We must know who we are and whose we are.

And we must stop doing our enemies’ bidding. Whether that’s Satan, white supremacists, racists, or ourselves, we need to recognize that if we Black people don’t care, respect, or value our own lives, that’s the hand our enemies fan with.

And why are we killing each other? For drug sales territory, beef with others, arguments, insults to manhood, gang-banging, jealousy, over boyfriends or girlfriends, anger, hatred, what?

Whatever the reason, killing and murdering our own is straight stupid. There is no good reason to take another human being’s life, to be trigger-happy, for thinking you’re tough by slinging a weapon around to intimidate and/or kill someone.

Recent mass shootings and the murders of innocents are heartbreaking. The senseless killings of hospital workers and patients, elementary school children, elderly grocery shoppers, and subway riders appalls us. The cries and demands for real gun reform are deafening, not thoughts and prayers.

While the murder epidemic might be an aberration in other cities and states, Louisiana and New Orleans’ murderous binge is decades old.

In “Why Does Louisiana Consistently Lead the Nation in Murders?,” a 2021 New York Times article reported that Louisiana has had the nation’s highest murder rate for more than three decades. And we’re only halfway through 2022, and the state is number one in mass shootings. “Louisiana leads the nation in mass shootings per capita. Just this calendar year alone, there have been 16 mass shootings that killed 9 people and injured 79 others,” Louisiana Radio Network reported last week.

New Orleans has the distinction of leading the nation with the highest homicide rate per capita for the first quarter of 2022, according to a report.

In New Orleans, a predominately Black city, most murders occurring everyday result from Black-on-Black violence. And this has got to stop. We have to stop killing us.

New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission director Rafael Goyeneche says gang activity & youth anger accounts for most of the violence. He calls it “retaliatory street justice.”

Mrs. Greenwood is New Orleans’ 121st homicide victim in the first 151 days of 2022.

“We’ll never get over this,” said a relative of Brandon, Bradley and Bryan Veal, brothers ages 30, 26, and 21 respectively. The Veal brothers were shot dead in two separate shootings on Feb. 13 and Feb. 20, 2021, both in Central City.

According to a CDC report, gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black males ages 15-34. Gun violence was also the leading cause of death for young people under age 25. Young people under 30 were nearly 10 times more likely to die by a firearm than COVID-19 in 2020.

That is certainly the case in New Orleans. An analysis of New Orleans Police Department data WDSU conducted shows that of the 120 victims murdered in 2019, nearly a third were in their 20s; about a quarter were in their 30s; 15 percent were in their 40s, and 14 percent were teenagers. 99 of the 120 victims were Black men, and 11 people, ages one to 17, were killed.

Gang-banging and youth angst may cause many murders in New Orleans, but we know that below the surface, the reasons for black-on-black violence are more profound.

In 1991, Na’im Akbar, a well-known Black psychologist and proponent of Afrocentric psychology wrote an article called “Mental Disorder Among African Americans.” In this article, he identified four categories of mental illness among African Americans, one of which he called “Self-Destructive Disorders.”

He described self-destructive disorders as destructive attempts to cope with the unnatural condition of White supremacy, where individuals exhibit a survival at any cost mentality that was directed at themselves or other Black/African people.

Assistant Professor at Rutgers School of Criminology, Michael Sierra-Arevalo, Ph.D., says the issue of Black on Black violence involves systemic racism and a long history of policies of decisions made by social institutions and politicians.

Erin Kerrison, assistant professor at the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley, says the community must understand the circumstances of those committing crimes. “It has nothing to do with whether you’re black or not. It has to do with what kind of chances you were offered and what kind of support you were denied.”

Additionally, research shows that when youth grow up in environments with economic problems and a lack of role models, they’re more at risk for poverty, early pregnancy, and violence, especially in adulthood. The environment is even more difficult for these young Americans in 2021.

After the shooting death of 9-year-old Devante Bryant in 2020, the community issued a Call to Action. It’s time for us to step up. We are the ones selling drugs. We are the ones who don’t have any youth programs in our community, another said.

Those who spoke called for an end to “Black on Black” violence and the need to take personal responsibility. One lady wore a T-Shirt at Bryant’s celebration, which read: No More Us Killing Us.

That was two years ago, and here we are again. Tears, thoughts, and prayers, my deepest sympathy….

NRA-funded lawmakers continue to remove restrictions on gun ownership and purchases. Their response to the epidemic of murder we are experiencing is to fund mental health providers, arm teachers, and harden schools. They insultingly offer their favorite slogan: “The only way to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

House Bill 37, sponsored by Louisiana House Representative Danny McCormack (R-Oil City), would have exempted certain persons from the crime of illegal carrying of weapons and eliminated permits to carry a concealed handgun. But in the wake of the Robb Elementary School mass murders, his proposals to loosen gun regulations were scuttled and replaced by a system of arming teachers with guns.

We can’t expect politicians flush with NRA cash to remove military weapons from our streets or pass sensible gun laws.

But we can demand NOPD’s visibility in our community. We need community patrols, like in days of old. We need NOPD to break up the gangs.

According to another WalletHub study, Louisiana is #1 in the country for idle, disengaged, most-at-risk youth. Disengaged youth are those who are not in school or employed.

We must demand that governments appropriate funds for social workers and mental health professionals in every school and university and mental health screenings for the impact of adverse childhood trauma on our youth and young adults and treat them accordingly.

We need productive and constructive fun activities for our children, teens, and disengaged youth. And not just in summer. We need our NORD parks, specifically those in the 7th, 8th, and 9th wards, to have swimming pools, organized sports, arts, and cultural activities year-round. Our youth also need part-time jobs throughout the school year.

Each one of us can help make our neighborhoods safe. We must take personal responsibility for our communities. If we see something, we must say something.

We must come together to plan and implement shared responsibilities on our own.

We need to re-create the village.

There was a time when we worked together, had each other’s back, and made progress together during the American apartheid era. We had no choice.

Let us begin again.

This article originally published in the June 6, 2022 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.