Black Lives Matter: My Fayetteville Experience of Losing Black Citizens

This entry was contributed by on August 24th, 2016 at 2:30 pm and is filed under .
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The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t saying that black lives are more important than white lives, or blue lives, or any other color of life.

It is a title to open a discussion on social injustices and a relevant social issue, but it makes people uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because it brings up racial inequities in the treatment of people, particularly by police officers.

Fayetteville has not seen an incident that would fetch national attention like in the case of Mike Brown, or Eric Garner, but that didn’t stop people from calling the Fayetteville Police Department (FPD) issuing over 60 death threats in 6 hours, in the wake of the Dallas shootings July 8th.

The FPD, under the guidance of Chief Harold Medlock, takes extraordinary precautions to avoid the situations that would lead to the death of a citizen, any citizen, regardless of race. But still, we are divided, on edge, and quite frankly paranoid.

So how do we open the conversation?

Let’s start with a basic foundation. In 2013, there were 34 homicides in Fayetteville. Seventeen people were charged in those crimes. Those charged were between the ages of 14 and 26, and all but one was African-American.

There have been 22 homicides in Fayetteville this year; the overwhelming majority of the victims are African-American. The overwhelming majority of the suspects or persons of interest in these cases are also African-Americans.

In a report released by the U.S. Department of Justice, between 2011 through 2013, Fayetteville police arrested 3,093 people between the ages of 16 and 18, 78 percent were African-American. In a city whose population is 204,408, the African-American community makes up 42 percent, and they make up 69 percent of total arrests.

In a Harvard University study, Cumberland County ranks one of the worst places in the United States for income mobility for children in poor families, meaning, if you were born in poverty in Cumberland County, the likelihood of ever getting out of it is practically impossible unless you move away.

On assignment at the Cumberland County Courthouse I covered a sentencing hearing for Kourtney Reed (pictured at top), a young African-American man, who was involved in an armed robbery gone wrong. Reed and his friends attempted to rob a man at a gas station, they then kidnapped him, took him out to Shaw Heights and when the man struggled he was shot and killed. Reed was around 20 at the time of the crime. He dropped out of school in the 11th grade; he was raised by a single mother in poverty.

A few weeks later I attended an event in the memory of Ravon Jordan, a young, African- American man who spoke out against gun violence in the government housing section of Fayetteville. He stood up in front of the Fayetteville City Council, pleading for change.

While attending a party Jordan was caught in the crossfire between two rival groups that fired more than 70 shots at each other, he was shot and killed. Before his untimely death, he was deeply bothered by the death of his friend, Shaniqua Simmons. She was a vibrant young African American woman, who became involved with a drug dealer, Jacoy Mahorn, who was also a murder suspect out on bail. She was asleep in the bed when he answered a knock on the door and let the person in. He turned to open the refrigerator and he was shot in the back of the head. The murderer then went into the bedroom where she was sleeping, and shot and killed her, too.

While speaking with Shaniqua’s mother, I learned that she had 21 siblings, that they lived in government housing, and that her parents both had records for things like petty theft. Mahorn on the other hand, had two sons, whose mother was killed in a car accident, and his mother was murdered in 1993. In all of these cases, the cases remain unsolved.

Does society really care about another black man or woman dead? The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t directed at white people or cops, it is pointing out a serious social issue in which lives are being lost, and no one seems to really care.

5 Responses to “Black Lives Matter: My Fayetteville Experience of Losing Black Citizens”

  1. GRAHAM KELLY

    Very good article and a nice compilation of stats to tie it all in. So yes I agree that Black Lives Matters is a social movement highlighting the mass loss (compared to other demographics) of lives in the Black community. My question is when are they going to address the “snitches get stitches” phenomena in Black culture. This mantra for many Black teens and young adults stymies investigations and realistically gives Black gangs and criminals carte blanche to commit wanton crimes in their own community, without fear of prosecution. Until that part of Black culture is solved (a self policing of sorts) protesting the establishment oppression (from mainly white police officers) issue, is largely an exercise in futility.

    Reply
    • Michelle Bir

      Graham,
      I think your post highlights a fundamental misunderstanding of the real underlying issues. Poverty, fatherless homes, feeling worthless and undervalued, and a constant fear of police brutality are what steer young men and women into situations where the “snitches get ditches” mindset is commonplace. I covered a sentencing hearing where a young black man, Dominic Lock was sentenced to 6-12 years for helping dispose of a young woman’s body. When asked why he didn’t tell the police or his family, he said he was adopted and feared that his adoptive family wouldn’t love him anymore. When asked why he didn’t run to a neighbors house he said, “I’m a young black man, knocking on someone’s door in the middle of the night, I didn’t want to get shot”. The scenario you mention is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.

      Reply
  2. Donna Vanhook

    Victim blaming is victim blaming, plain and simple. How can we say systemic and systematic oppression cause

    Reply
  3. Donna Vanhook

    Victim blaming is victim blaming. How can one say systematic and systemic oppression is a root cause of police brutality against people of color and with the same mouth blame people of color for not snitching? That is conflicting and problematic.

    Reply
  4. Kevin Amirehsani

    I’d like to see more BLM groups proactively reach out to police departments to set up constructive meetings, and vice versa. Both sides need to realize that open lines of communication, and not simply talking over each other, is what’s needed to make a dent in these horrifying statistics. I’d also like to see more civilian-run police review boards and less of an emphasis on prosecuting minor, victimless crimes, on one hand, and a move away from the “safe spaces” concept, which often stifles debate, on the other.

    Reply

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