Now is the time to save our children, our city
Here’s what science tells us – and what we all know deep down inside: Poverty isn’t about laziness. Drug abuse is not about drugs. Gun violence is not about guns. Just say no doesn’t work.
We can focus on the problem or we can focus on the solution. I suggest we focus on the solution. Gun violence is a symptom of deeper societal ills. Gun violence is multifaceted, and our approach must also be multidimensional.
But one solution stands out as resolutely effective in the long term against armed violence: the economy.
Gun violence is statistically non-existent in the upper income brackets. As income brackets decline, the prevalence of gun violence increases, with the highest levels of gun violence occurring in the lowest income levels. Therefore, to a large extent, gun violence correlates with the level of poverty in our communities. To a large extent, when we correct poverty, some part of gun violence will resolve itself.
So why do we focus so intensely on the symptoms rather than the causes? Why not focus entirely on what will eliminate so much of the violence that plagues our streets? I saw three young men shot dead in our streets. Two died. Fortunately, we have lived.
Neighborhoods United’s Cincinnati Community Plan to Reduce Gun Violence addresses some of the many causes of gun violence. Let’s look at one of these possible actions that will likely have a significant impact on reducing gun violence: the re-establishment of the Citizens Committee on Youth (CCY).
CCY operated efficiently in Cincinnati at nine satellite locations. Over the decades, CCY has helped and positively influenced thousands of Cincinnati youth, helping them lead their lives and produce successful adults.
When I grew up in Bond Hill there was a CCY satellite location right next to my elementary school. Willie C. Jackson was the program director I knew best from CCY because he was also involved in youth sports at Bond Hill. Willie has always been one of my heroes. He recently passed away and his service was filled with other heroes, including George Wilson of the former Cincinnati Royals.
CCY was a division of the City of Cincinnati, like the Human Relations Commission. Its funding was never threatened as it was a division within the city. Cincinnati cared about young people so much that they made an entire division of the city dedicated to our young people, offering summer and school year jobs, as well as counseling and training.
Unfortunately, over time there were those who cared little about the type of clients CCY served. They felt they were throwing away their money. They didn’t act like the lives of these children mattered.
This lack of support is coming home to roost, in the form of gun violence across our city.
We must be concerned with saving our children. We are all connected. In fact, we are a Cincinnati, although sometimes we don’t see ourselves that way. The rich are connected to the poor and the whites are connected to African Americans. Right now, part of our city is suffering. If your leg hurts, it hurts. The leg is not separated from the rest of your body, and if you simply ignore the wound, it can become infected and spread throughout your system.
Last year was the deadliest year on record for gun violence in Cincinnati’s history. Gun violence among adolescents has increased by 38%. Now is the time to save our children. Now is the time to save our city. We need to invest in their lives and in their communities. We are products of our environment. It’s time to restore the CCY.
There was a man who had a pond with rare and beautiful fish. One of his prized fish died and floated up. He wondered what was wrong with the fish. The next day 100 fish died and floated upward. At that point, he must have wondered what was wrong with the pond.
It is time for us to ask ourselves what is wrong with our pond.
Brian Garry of Clifton is a Democratic candidate for Cincinnati city council. He is chairman of the Human Services Coalition of the Faith Community Alliance; co-founder of the Cincinnati Racial Justice Coalition; and owner of Green City Ecostruction, which creates net zero homes that are affordable.