The last thing a parent sending a child off to college should worry about is whether he or she will be in harm’s way. Yet the family of 19-year old Spelman College student Jasmine Lynn received the awful news that she had become another senseless victim of gun violence. The Kansas City, Missouri native and Spelman sophomore was shot in the chest as she walked across the Clark-Atlanta University campus, the innocent victim of a dispute taking place nearby. We mourn the loss of this young woman and pray that this incident will be a spark that ignites widespread outrage among Blacks over the toll that guns are taking on our community.
All across the nation, our community and our children are under assault. In Newark, New Jersey, gun violence has prompted community members to take to the streets while in Detroit the city is contending with a wave of violence by youthful offenders. It appears we are now bearing the full brunt of decades of failing public schools, family disintegration, poverty borne from joblessness, and mass incarceration. It is not just a matter of our streets not being safe, whole neighborhoods are now terrorized by the presence of gun-wielding thugs who have no regard for the law or human life. The murder of innocent children represents a new low. The killing of our children should be the “trigger” that provokes a tidal wave of anger at those responsible for the bloodshed. It should also strengthen our resolve to reclaim our communities.
Young Jasmine Lynn had everything to look forward to in life. Her dream was to attend Spelman College and she was well on her way to becoming part of the legacy of that storied institution. Now, all that she could have become has been snuffed out by the indifference of someone or some persons who clearly had no regard for our children or respect for the college campus on which they unleashed their insanity. While we deplore gun violence no matter where it occurs, there is something particularly egregious when it violates the sanctity of an environment where our youth who have embraced excellence have chosen to further their education. Whether Clark-Atlanta or Spelman, or a public school, our students deserve the opportunity to learn free of fear over their safety.
We can begin by sitting down with police and prosecutors, and determining the best way to begin ferreting out dangerous elements in our community. This must include a real commitment to protect witnesses who come forward and put behind bars, under heavy penalty, anyone who threatens a witness. At the same time, we need to make a “final offer” of reconciliation to those who have chosen to engage in criminal behavior and who wish to turn their lives around. Once made, if rejected, we should leave no stone unturned in seeking their arrest and imprisonment. We also need to become vocal proponents of gun control and wage war against the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its supporters. For too long we have sat back and allowed the NRA to manipulate public opinion and use the Second Amendment to shield their recklessness in promoting gun ownership.
In the early days of the AIDS crisis, activists used the mantra “Silence is deadly.” We need to adopt it as our own. The longer we sit back in silence, the higher the body count. We hope those who may have witnessed the shooting at Clark-Atlanta come forward and inform the police. We also hope that if they do, the entire, rational Black community of Atlanta will stand behind them and send a message that a larger force exists against those who do harm to our children.