Standing up against violence

Published 10:12 pm Thursday, August 19, 2010

As news about the Aug. 1 shooting death of TyQuan Lewis began to spread, there was one question on the lips of many residents of Suffolk: What in the world is going on in the city’s black community? Why do so many young black men resort to violence — and especially gun violence — to solve their disputes, some wondered. Further, there was a sense that the NAACP had remained uncharacteristically silent on the issue of young black males killing young black males.

The questions still remain, but the NAACP has weighed in on the matter. Good people of any race, its leaders confirm, will not stand idly by and watch a generation be decimated.

When Charles Gates, president of the Nansemond-Suffolk Branch of the NAACP, announced that the organization’s Youth Council would be sponsoring a community meeting during which it hoped to develop a plan of action for combating the problem of youth violence, it was easy to wonder if expectations might have been set a little too high. Even so, many in the community were encouraged to learn that their political and cultural leaders were moving to look for a solution.

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As it turned out, expectations for the meeting probably were a bit unrealistic. Parents and other adults who attended on Tuesday at St. Timothy Baptist Church were upset and clearly needed an opportunity to vent their anger, frustration and disgust at the situation that faces Suffolk’s youth. There was little time remaining for proper solutions to be suggested, much less plans put in place to achieve those solutions.

That’s OK, though. As long as area leaders keep the issue as a critical priority and move toward implementing solutions, the community will have reason to feel safer. What’s most important is that the community remains engaged. The lack of engagement by adults, especially parents, has been a major contributor to the problems that underlie the violent, destructive culture that threatens Suffolk’s youth.

The danger to young people in Suffolk is not gone, and the responsibility for overcoming it rests in large part with the youth themselves. But with the support of caring, engaged parents, neighbors and community leaders, the city’s young people can once again find peace. And that will be the best thing for the whole community.