Bankole: Activists pushing effort to stop baby killings

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

Activists calling for an end to gun violence in the city are demanding more be done to stop the killing of babies that is becoming a new normal.

Take for example, Malik Shabazz. He said he thought he had seen it all.

Shabazz has over the years led campaigns taking down drug havens in abandoned houses, fighting against police brutality and successfully going after liquor stores that sell expired foods in the city. He’s been in the trenches of political activism for 33 years.

But Shabazz who heads the New Marcus Garvey/New Black Panther Nation community activist group says Detroit has entered a new low on gun violence, and something needs to be done immediately.

“We have a rash of baby killings in this city. I can barely talk about it without shedding tears. It is unacceptable. The abnormal has become normal,” Shabazz said. “If we as a community are not talking about this and doing something to stop it, then we are half dead as a city.”

In the last two years the city has seen an unbelievable wave of gun violence against innocent children.

Often when these killings occur, Shabazz and other activists will mobilize the community to march in the neighborhood where the crime took place.

But these expressions of outrage are small when compared to the outrage that commands the headlines when the incidents involve police officers.

“If the police kill one today and we kill 30 on the same day, we have to deal with them all. Black lives should matter all the time,” Shabazz said. “I’m against police brutality as one of the co-founders of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality. But this is an outrage when the victims and the perpetrators are black.”

He added, “This is out of control. We have to stop giving safe havens to murderers and rapists who are in our basements. And we need more block clubs that are active. We are responsible for all of this.”

Teferi Brent, one of the founders of Detroit 300 crime-fighting group who has been leading the “Man Up Guns Down” campaign, said ending the violence requires a systemic approach beyond pricking the conscience of the community.

Another effective strategy “mandates that conflict resolution and/or restorative practices are taught in school at every stage of our children’s academic journey,” Brent said. “Peace zones and resolution and mediation houses offering these resources should be established in all of our neighborhoods throughout the city.”

He continued: “All of these things coupled with intense mental health servicing can ultimately lead to us as a community, creating a culture, climate and consciousness or peace in our village.”

Carolyn Warrior, the founder of Mothers Demanding Justice and whose son, Marcel Jackson, was killed at age 39 in 2012 at the Pandemonium club in downtown Detroit while working as a security guard, said Detroit’s youth have to be engaged.

“We have to talk to young people about the senseless killings in the community,” Warrior said.

Ovella Andreas, a Christian preacher affiliated with United Communities of America, who has led a number of cease-fire campaigns and prayer vigils to address gun violence, said the area churches must step up aggressively.

“I don’t know whether that’s a priority for the church right now,” Andreas said. “The church has to create a consciousness and that requires visible spiritual leadership in addressing violence.”

The Rev. W.J. Rideout III, pastor of All God's People's Church and founder of the group Defenders of Truth and Justice, agrees.

“We have to have all organizations and churches to come together as a whole and unite to make better changes for our children,” Rideout said. “We are allowing our children to get killed and our seniors to be attacked.”

Peggy Noble, 74, president of the College Park Community Association on the city’s west side where 6-month-old Miracle Murray baby was killed in April, said she will never stop marching against violent crime.

“This has got to stop. We have had enough,” she said. “By us getting out here marching, we are trying to send a message that is not going to happen.”

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910 AM Wednesdays and Fridays. His column appears Mondays and Thursday.