Just two days later and in broad daylight, 29-year-old Omar Jackson racked up this year’s first homicide statistic by allegedly shooting and killing 24-year-old Christopher Williams in the street on Park Avenue near East McMillan Avenue in Walnut Hills. A mere neck-crane away is where police found the body of Kendall Hampton, 26, last August in a field near a bodega, the rear of which is adjacent to the block where Williams died.
A murderous superhighway connector.
I listened to a portion of the broadcast between Iverson and Craig. I was more relieved that 101.1 WIZF stopped rotating its primetime playlist of the same half-dozen, corporate-sanctioned, ghetto club bangers featuring Lil’ Wayne and/or Rick Ross than I was that they were addressing murderous violence.
It’s not such a big deal to give evening air space on a non-talk format to the dissemination of relevant issues when what passes for postmodern Rap music itself can make a black man lose his mind, a black woman lose her dignity and make the white wannabes (temporarily) join the fray.
Though no one came out and said so while I was listening, the chief’s brief radio residency on the city’s only black station makes it appear as though our city’s violent crime is solely black-on-black or, at the least, only a black problem.
It is neither.
All violent crime is everyone’s problem, especially so long as we are living side-by-side in close proximity. Your ZIP code may tell you otherwise, but we are neighbors, so lend me some sugar and don’t shoot. Because violent crime drains public resources and it causes widespread panic, much of which is internalized, striking fear and anxiety in the hearts of gun owners and those who now think they need to own guns.
These are two very dangerous segments of the population.
And not because of gun fetishism.
Because of fear and anxiety.
It’s hard, as Winston Churchill told England during Hitler’s war-era ravages, to “keep calm and carry on” in the midst of violent attacks by our fellow men and women.
I subconsciously stay hunkered inside because now more than ever I live so uncertain of the next move of the strangers driving beside me, in line with me, sitting beside me in a dark theater.
Yet, like a good neighbor, violence remains so close.
I live within walking distance of where Williams died.
All around that area are internal snapshots of personal history, of my long and storied relationship with this community. I take Williams’ death and every single violent death of any person in Walnut Hills personally, as a cold shock.
This is not only where I have lived — as I’ve said countless times before — within a one-mile radius of myself for 24 years now but where I’ve made my life; where I became grown up.
I had a nightmarish experience trying to vote for President Obama in 2008 in the basement of the Park Eden apartment building across the street from the shooting. But my 2012 voting experience was greatly assuaged by the fellowship in the long, snaking line inside the Myron B. Bush Recreation Center around the corner from the shooting. Two summers ago I went to a cool neighborhood block party in the parking lot of Frederick Douglass School one block away from the shooting. And I always forget about — and am quickly grateful for — the stately but warm Walnut Hills branch of the Public Library just up the street from the shooting. During one brutal winter of the mid-1990s I trudged through knee-high snow in the middle of an otherwise impassible William Howard Taft — past the shooting site — to Kroger, or what we affectionately call the BroKro for its proliferation of black ghetto features, to fetch a bag of stupid groceries (hot dogs and cereal?). During that same era, I sporadically filled in as co-host of Mr. Rhythm Man’s rhythm and blues radio show on 88.3 WAIF in the basement of the decrepit and sticky Alms Hotel with my friend Darren Blase.
This, too, is just a few steps from the shooting.
From the shooting...
The old me would’ve driven by that crime scene and gotten out to eavesdrop and talk to folks; I would’ve taken some notes, talked to some cops.
It’s the reporter in me.
I stayed put despite hearing the midday sirens squawking past my place and I could tell trouble was nigh and close by.
Now more than ever I am cautious and conscientious with what I take into my psyche.
It feels odd and cold and it makes me sick to be drawn to the violent impetuousness of someone else’s daytime death on the very sidewalk I’ve walked, passing the gated sunflowers of a second-hand friend I once visited. I have seen enough dead bodies of people I didn’t know; stuck my nose and notebook into the faces and private grief of strangers hovering over and screaming out the names of their lifeless loved ones.
And, for what?
Nothing stops the idiocy of violent crime; nothing tamps down the heat of the moment; nothing ever steps between a bullet and a target except, of course, another target, intended or unintended.
What I’d like is for thugs to speak up instead of a few radio hours of the police chief and a radio host fielding calls from folks fed up, scared, bewildered and previously victimized and even those who want to be on the radio, if only for a few moments to espouse empty Hallmarks.
I want to hear from shooters doing time or those who’ve done time.
The balance of power lies with them.
When Chief Craig said, “We can fix this,” I turned off the radio. Only shooters can.
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: firstname.lastname@example.org