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T. Rashad Byrdsong, CEA president and CEO
Community Empowerment Association, Inc.
400 North Lexington Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15208
March 23, 2009
A. Overall problem
- Youth and young adult violence is currently among the biggest threats in Pittsburgh's neighborhoods.
- Pittsburgh’s murder rates in 2008 have surpassed previous 3 years' statistics. Among the victims 88.3% were African Americans.
- The homicide victims were primarily male (85%) and over half were 28 or younger.
- Additionally, Pennsylvania leads the nation in the rate of Black homicide (FBI data, 2008).
- Pennsylvania’s Black homicide rate of 36.8 per 100,000 (in 2008) is nearly seven times national overall homicide rate.
B. Significance of the problem
Yet, our region does not have a comprehensive plan to reduce violence.
Unfortunately, new Pittsburgh Initiative for Reducing Crime (PIRC) will not work by itself:
- Over reliance on law enforcement for controlling youth violence invites further affliction of our youth in Greater Pittsburgh region.
- As we have seen in the past, community residents will definitely be resistant to such a targeted suppressive plan.
- Over 30 years of criminal justice research have shown that:
- forces of police vigilance and tougher sentencing will not sustain public safety.
- Waves of brutal crime are a symptom of contagious sickness of communities, instead of inherent or deliberate viciousness of individuals viciousness (Kenneth B. Clark).
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Our communities desperately need a comprehensive strategic plan that addresses violence, and encourages community involvement and support.
C. Initial Step Toward Violence Reduction
- CEA would like to present a comprehensive Public Health Approach to Violence plan for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, with other local experts who can talk about the feasibility of the plan and the development of a Commission for Violence Reduction and Prevention -- via an Institute of Politics forum.
- Develop a Commission for Violence Prevention of Violence based on collaborative process involving CEA, University of Pittsburgh, Mayer's Office, Pittsburgh Police (Nate Harper), Black Political Empowerment, Project (Tim Stevens), other African American leaders, and political representatives (e.g., Jim Ferlo, Jake Wheatley, Governor's office, representatives from the foundation community, etc.) This commission will be responsible for the development of a strategy and action plan to implement the comprehensive violence reduction plan, as well as locate resources and begin to modify policies for the successful implementation of the plan.
- Implement the Violence Reduction Plan
- Monitor violence rates, evaluate outcomes, and further refine the violence reduction plan.
D. Major population to benefit from such action
- African American youth, young adults, and their family members;
- Increased public safety of community residents at large; and
- Tax payers-- reduction of costs associated with criminal justice and incarceration.
E. CEA suggested violence reduction paradigmThe Centers for Disease Control defines violence as a public health concern-- a predictable behavior in the unsafe environments where people live. CEA understands and agrees with CDC that:
- Depressed economic conditions within a given community can foster significantly higher levels of violence.
- Perceived oppression, and the resulting feelings of inequality and powerlessness, is also underlying components of many types of violence.
- An unsupportive home life, including physical or psychological abuse, can contribute toward subsequent violent behavior.
- A sense of isolation and fear for one’s personal safety can also adversely affect one’s ability to resolve conflict without violence.
Thus, reducing youth violence based solely on law enforcement is loaded with liabilities and invites further affliction of our youth in Greater Pittsburgh region
F. Overview Elaboration of Suggested Violence Reduction Plan
CEA's suggested strategy for violence reduction is based on a holistic public health intervention system, which includes three major components-- prevention, rehabilitation, and development.
A. Prevention– measures that reduce future potential for violent behavior.
- Services for abused and neglected children and their parents
- Truancy and school dropout prevention
- Expanded school curricula to aid needy students, and supervision after school
- Curfew centers, offering at-risk youth adult mentoring activities manhood and womanhood development programs
- Job training initiatives, enhanced educational opportunities,
- Spiritual awakening activities
- Development of youth leadership and think-tank institutes
These measures foster and develop prospects for non-violent and peaceful coexistence.
B. Rehabilitation-- violence diffusion from neighborhoods and enabling of victims and former offenders toward sustained recovery.
- Street-outreach, conflict mediation, rapid response to shooting incidents for intensive case management
- Trauma centers which can address seriously injured victims and their physical and psycho-emotional recovery,
- Violence reduction centers, gang group diffusion,
- Rehabilitating offenders from drug abuse and dependency, criminal justice intervention for violent offenders,
- Services for reintegration into community life (reentry support, housing, employment, financial management, and social support networks),
- Mental health services for victimized families as well as perpetrators, family support services, and spiritual enrichment.
These measures represent direct treatment of afflicted communities and violence prone individuals.
C. Development-- process of enrichment and social cultural improvement.
- Working with community groups, schools, employers, media, and health service providers to revitalize neighborhoods (e.g., town-hall meetings, community clean-up, management of vacant buildings)
- Enhanced landlord responsibilities, business investment, safe play grounds,
- Community-wide social/recreational activities,
- distributive health services,
- Community volunteer management,
- Media focus on positive youth-- decriminalization of African American neighborhoods)
- Elaboration and expansion of sport, music and art programs for youth recreational participation, focused engagement, and talent refinement.
These measures represent timely improvement of neighborhood stability and quality of life.
There is a lot more to CEA suggested Violence Reduction Plan. For more detailed information please see our comprehensive plan document, which is widely circulated to major institutions, community stakeholders, local and statewide media, and national conferences.
21 Twenty-One Standards For a Healthy African Community
Standards, Values & Principles that Guide the Socialization & Education of African Children, Families & their Community:
- Parents, Grandparents, Children, Friends, Neighbors take responsibility for each other
- If you see someone in trouble, help immediately
- Help, Guide, Support, Acknowledge and Correct every child
- Greet every member of community with love and respect
- Ask for help before there is a crisis
- Provide help/support before being asked
- Share what you know and what you’ve learned – that which helped you
- Acknowledge the help you have received
- Celebrate each other’s success
- Remain connected to Family/Community even when it hurts
- Work through problems together
- Hold each other accountable to what is right and good
- Inspire each other, especially Children and Elders
- When success comes, share it – help others succeed
- When failure comes, be willing to receive support and accept responsibility
- Be good to one’s self in order to inspire others
- Get up, show up and take part in building/maintaining community
- Respect Elders, Family, and Community as core to having a good life
- Get education, training, and personal development
- Acknowledge spirit as essential to Community Life and Cultural Heritage
- Never give our Children up