Black community leaders pleaded with Pittsburgh residents on Tuesday to end the gun violence that resulted in a string of deaths and injuries to local children this month.
DeSean Fountain, 14, died Friday after his mother decided to take him off life support. He was shot in the head a week earlier while standing outside the East Liberty Garden Apartments, a low-income housing complex. Earlier that week, a 6-year-old boy named Angelo was shot in the hand while playing outside in Bedford Dwellings, another low-income housing complex. No one has been arrested in either case, though officials are prosecuting the stepfather of a 22-month old child fatally shot at home in Fineview on Sept. 1.
Tim Stevens of the Black Political Empowerment Project called for the conference, told attendees it's time for the community to come together and condemn the violence.
“We are once again calling upon all persons who have committed and those who are contemplating any acts of violence to please think twice and then think again,” Stevens said.
Adrienne Young works with Tree of Hope, a faith-based organization that provides emotional and financial support to those who have lost loved ones to violence. It's time for community members to stand up to those who would commit acts of violence, she said.
“We have to begin to address the people in our community that we know are dealing drugs, that are doing the wrong things, that are out there with guns,” Young said. “There are more of us than there are of them.”
Young lost her own son, a Carnegie Mellon University freshman, when he was fatally shot in 1994. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in April 1995 that Javon Thompson was deeply concerned about violence in his community, and shortly before his death had created a computer-based animation to bring attention to the problem.
But Stevens said Tuesday’s gathering wasn’t meant only to bring attention to a problem, but to share solutions.
Many who spoke said young black men and women need greater access to economic and educational opportunities.
Minister Victor Muhammed with the Nation of Islam quoted abolitionist Frederick Douglass, saying “it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
State Rep. Ed Gainey (D-East Liberty) said young men need to know that they are loved and are capable of great things.
“Know that first and foremost, we love you,” he said. “Know first and foremost that we have more positive in our community than we have negative. Know first and foremost that also we need you, the media … to portray a good image of the African American community and not just the negativity that happens in our community.”
Social justice activist Khalid Raheem said lawmakers and community members also need to address the root causes of violence that plague so many low-income, often black, communities.
“Racism, white supremacy (and) economic injustice. Systemic, structural, and institutional,” he said. “When you fix that, you fix the families, you fix the neighborhoods and we create and perpetuate strong communities.”
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Coalition Against Violence -- 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22 at Freedom Unlimited, 2201 Wylie Ave. in the Hill District.
National Day of Prayer for Our Youth -- 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 at Westinghouse High School, 1101 N. Murtland Ave. in Homewood.
Million Man March -- A Pittsburgh delegation led by Victor Muhammed will attend the 20th anniversary celebration Saturday, Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C.