By Dr. Clifford F. Buttram
Special to Frost Illustrated
Recently, I attended the NAACP event that invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation to address the public about gang violence, crime statistics and civil rights procedures regarding police brutality. While the briefing was quite informative and fact filled and the presenters professional and knowledgeable, the resulting question and answer session was less than forthcoming in informing the community how to best combat this current surge in violence. In fact, the answers given to several audience members were vague, ambiguous and, quite frankly, not helpful in dealing effectively with the rise in known gang violence. Our community already knows (and has heard repeatedly and continuously) to inform the police about crime leads, however, some more substance was expected from the question and answer session. Nevertheless, the presentation did provide specific focus on community accountability and individual action.
The presentation led me to deliberate about how we as a black community have all the resources needed to solve this violence problem. We just need to have the wherewithal to implement them. From many indications (including a presentation slide which depicted the known Fort Wayne gangs), Fort Wayne appears to have a gang problem in the southeast part of the city. The American Heritage Dictionary defines terrorism as:
“The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.”
Does this definition sound familiar? Have we not experienced this as a community over the past three months? Terrorism is a violent means to either a covert or overt political or ideological end. Gang violence is a form of community terrorism whereby its use as a means to instill violent influence within certain neighborhoods triggers community self-doubt and a fear of protective, communal action. I believe Fort Wayne is in the grip of certain community terrorist tactics. When black males not old enough to vote or legally purchase a drink can wantonly shoot and kill another black male in broad daylight, we have a community terror that slowly begins to affect the people.
It is striking that the U.S. Army and Marines quelled the Iraqi insurgency in a year with an influx of 30,000 additional troops. In a sense, one could say this was not noteworthy because we combatted community (Iraqi) violence with violence. This is partially true, however, because our enhanced presence in those communities was also a significant factor. In respect, this form of community terrorism was combatted by countering means to the ends or by simply meeting the violence forthrightly. In the darkest days of the surge, the community began to realize the significance of standing against the violence and decided, as citizens, to retake their own communities. Although Iraq is not a direct comparison to Fort Wayne, I do wonder about the influence of our community surge against our community terrorism problem. If the gang or gang members begin to see our community’s intolerance to their violent ends, their means to those ends begin to crumble.
In closing, we all know that actions speak louder than words. Who among the Fort Wayne community will lead the counteraction to the violence? Is it the church leaders? Or city council leaders? Perhaps secondary school leaders such as principals, guidance counselors or coaches? Or just maybe the community (the people) congeals to form the countermeasures. I think the answer may be all the above. The problem is that anytime a teenager or young person disrespects their parents, teachers, the church, or society in general, somewhere along their distorted path they felt disrespected from those very entities. Disrespect is both a sign and a symptom of contempt. And, we certainly have had our share of contempt for the sanctity of life in our city since January.
The point is that WE can solve these issues through our own initiative and creativity instead of relying on others to do so. Every problem has a solution, otherwise it would only be an issue. We have a community violence problem that needs a community based solution. Perhaps we can have our own community meeting in the same place as the presentation I mentioned in my opening with some of the leaders noted above. Who among us will step forward to sponsor this meeting so we can begin our own community countermeasures against the violence?
Dr. Clifford F. Buttram Jr. is a retired U.S. Army officer with more than 20 years of leadership and management experience in organizational development, communication, behavior, and visioning. He has taught and led in a variety of college environments including serving as a professor of Military Science and Leadership at Eastern Michigan University, an Army ROTC regional marketing liaison at the University of Michigan, dean of Academic Affairs at ITT Technical Institute in Fort Wayne and South Bend, and campus director at National College in Fort Wayne. Dr. Buttram is active throughout the community including serving in communications for the MLK Club Inc. of Fort Wayne and as a lecturer at the Three Rivers Institute of Afrikan Art & Culture.
This article originally appeared in our April 17, 2013 issue.