Ending community violence requires long-term solutions

| July 20, 2016
Jonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray

By Jonathan Ray

Special to Frost Illustrated

The recent shootings in Fort Wayne raises complex and confounding questions and in response many people have attempted to define the problem narrowly focused on symptoms rather than solution that cause community change. Focusing on changes that are solely focused on symptoms is like the story of the starfish and the young man walking along the shoreline picking up starfish one at a time. His efforts saved the lives of the starfish he picked up but did not change the fact that the tide was going to roll in everyday or the fact that thousands of starfish will be washed ashore each day because of the tide. For that one starfish that got saved it was impactful.

Creating change in our community that will transform culture requires system change. Yes, we want to save one child that has lost his/her way—like the illustration of the starfish. But, the impact of our work will not be as far reaching as when we start to dismantle the machine that is creating violent teenagers that have lost hope in achieving their American Dream.

An article that appeared in Fort Wayne Business Weekly, March 25, 2016 showing that Fort Wayne is ranked fifth among of the largest 100 cities in the USA in terms of spatial disparity illustrates the depth of the information divide in our city. For example, in the 46845 zip code the poverty rate is four percent and post-recession growth in business and jobs has been extraordinary (Fort Wayne Business Weekly). By contrast in 46803 45 percent of the population lives in poverty, more than half of the adult population is out of work and job growth has been negative post-recession (Fort Wayne Business Weekly). Fort Wayne residents are living with distinctly different lifestyles. The gap in income and lifestyle is unique when comparing Fort Wayne with the rest of the country. This is important when considering shared solutions to our community’s violence problem.

Stepping out of our world and into another person’s lifestyle will allow one to consider the impact of poverty on violence. If you struggle to pay your bills and don’t know where your next meal is coming from, studies show you are more likely to commit a crime. It has been demonstrated that people resort to crime only if they determine that potential benefits outweigh the cost or consequences of committing that crime (The Poverty-Crime Connection by LaceyMcLAughlinWednesday, October 19, 2011). Therefore, community change will only be achieved with economic opportunity for those that are in poverty.

To help you need a more realistic understanding of Southeast Fort Wayne. The great majority of residents are law-abiding, God-fearing and often socially conservative; but have lost hope. That being said, the street or thug culture is real; young people are living by norms, values and habits that are, disturbingly, rooted in a survival mode that is aggressive and assertive.

WHAT is to be done? Support programs that promote school readiness program, mentoring programs and education and training programs for adults and youth. What has to be done in this time of crisis is to create an opportunity to work now! The lack of an opportunity to find employment and thereby, achieve personal independence is at issue here. Can you provide an opportunity for employment to a teenager or an adult? The teens of Southeast Fort Wayne need work and the adults need a livable wage job. If you can assist please contact me at the Urban League at (260) 745-3100.

Long range we need to reach a broader range of work opportunity, such initiatives should be part of a more comprehensive and holistic employment program, one that also takes seriously the issue of large-scale jobs creation across the entire skills spectrum, as well as the quality of those jobs in addition to comprehensive job training. If we can accomplish that then we would have started the process to dismantle a system that is producing hopeless teens and adults and help them realize their own American dream.

Jonathan Ray is president and CEO of the Fort Wayne Urban League.

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Category: Community, Crime & Safety, Local, Opinion

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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