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OPINION | JESSE TURNER: A community problem

by Jesse Turner Special to The Commercial | May 28, 2023 at 2:31 a.m.

In 2009, the Lord God directed me to write these words amidst the rot occurring in the city. Sent to channels 7, 11, 4, 16, and the Democrat-Gazette.


Sent: 12/5/2009 7:07:32 A.M. Central Standard Time

Subj: Sick and Tired of Homicides

"I am sick and tired of what's going on in Pine Bluff, are you? A few weeks ago, gun play occurred early in the morning in a Black neighborhood in Pine Bluff. Blacks in Pine Bluff continue to kill Blacks while our Black leadership remains silent."

To ignore homicide and solutions are worst than the act itself. Recently, another youngster lost his life due to gun violence. No outcry. We have put crosses up because all life matters.

Nonetheless, some preachers do nothing but mock our actions, saying we are acting as if we are chasing vampires. Their criticism is a rot on the minds and killer of the spirit for those wanting to volunteer and support a movement to reduce homicides. Data reveals that homicides and violence psychologically hurt our youngsters.

Our city should reconsider efforts to secure the Shotspotter Technology, a tool for reducing crime and gun violence. Again, crime prevention is a community problem, not a law enforcement one. Too much gun play in neighborhoods puts everyone at risk of being killed by a stray bullet.

The reality is thugs are taking over this city. Up to this point, they appear to be doing a good job. Neighbors are afraid to be out after dark, and children are in danger of being killed by gunfire. Young Blacks have decided to kill each other in the city, as in 100% of all homicides in 2021 and 2022.

So far, in 2023, the victim and the perpetrator are Black, and those trying to develop solutions are criticized by those who should be helping. Neglecting homicides is a Black problem in Pine Bluff. Why? The community is almost 80% Black, and 99% of elected officials are Black, and we can't pretend it's not.

These problems have been known for decades, and now is the time for solutions. Black folk must bring solutions when they clamber and become the city's leaders. Homicides have been blowing up in Pine Bluff since 1997. Thank God for the original ministerial alliance joining the effort to help reduce these senseless acts of violence. We are developing a plan with school districts and state education officials to have a presence on school campuses in the city in the fall. Violence affects business development as well as new job creation and sustainability.

Homicides impact the quality of life in this city, drive off the population, hurt tourism, and deter citizens from coming to Pine Bluff to live, raise a family and do business. Where is the cavalry? Youths at significant risk of disconnection are between the ages 8 and 17 and often include youth who reside in high-crime neighborhoods, many of whom are exposed to or have participated in acts of violence.

Many children we serve with POP programming find the most significant numbers enrolled in Title 1/low-performing schools. Some struggle with intellectual, learning, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Others see violence as a way of life, such as those who are court-involved, confined in juvenile facilities, or are more likely than their peers to drop out or get pushed out of school and thus headed for involvement in the juvenile justice system. While violence hurts our tax base in Pine Bluff, empirical data tells us it seriously affects our young people.

Attorney General Eric Holder conducted a study on children exposed to violence. The study revealed: "Violence exposure can be direct, where the victim or community of victims is the direct target of the intentional use of force or power, but it can also be indirect, where the victim or community of victims is witness to the intentional use of force or power or has lost a loved one to violence. In both cases, over 20 years of scientific literature on the impact of violence demonstrates that violence exposure results in significant short- and long-term debilitating and costly impacts on the victim's physical, emotional, cognitive, and social health and well-being."

The priorities of POP and the Woodson Center target youth whose life experiences involve ongoing exposure to community, school, and family violence. The subtopic of From Nonviolence to No Violence explores violence against African American adults and youth and the need for trauma-focused services, utilizing a history-based and contemporary format. While there is no silver bullet to end homicides, every effort by PBICVR and the Pine Bluff Faith Community Coalition Ministerial Alliance has the potential to save a life.

Homicides should not be a common practice in Pine Bluff, and since 1997 we've marched and done much more. PBICVR has kept these senseless acts of violence before the community while waiting for support from the cavalry to help. Nonetheless, we will continue to do our part until young men and women are educated to solve conflicts using words, not weapons.

Jesse C. Turner is president of Pine Bluff Faith Community Coalition Ministerial Alliance and executive director of Pine Bluff Interested Citizens for Voter Registration Inc.

Print Headline: A community problem


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