What was I thinking? A candlelight vigil and rally against violence that offers nothing to stop the violence and crime that is plaguing Bessemer. Nothing, but prayer and Jesus. From the “vigil” standpoint I understand this. But a rally against violence, in my mind, would involve a statement from the police department and city officials offering solutions, and the residents getting behind them.
But last night’s rally offered none of that. The police chief told me yesterday morning that he was not even aware of the rally. The keynote speaker was Mayor Ed May, and one of the highlights of his speech, other than “me, me, me”, was that the recent murders took place because Satan handed Eve the apple. Another highlight was his assertion that an increased police presence would not make the area safer. We heard about the Lake of Fire, and how God used the mayor’s wife to prevent him from ending up in Mobile, instead, bringing him to Bessemer to fulfill his destiny. Oh, and we had a hand raising for the audience to declare whether we want to go to heaven or hell. “Come on, raise your hands.” The theme there was if you commit murder on the street, you will go to hell. Plain and simple kids, don’t commit murder. There, wasn’t that easy?
“Where does murder take place?” the mayor asked. “In the homes,” he answered himself. Murders take place in people’s homes so having more police in the neighborhood would not prevent them. Mayor May, listen and learn. Josh Hughes was not in a home when he was killed, he was in the yard. The three men who shot each other on Dartmouth Avenue were not in their home, they were in the middle of the street.
But you are right, Mr. Mayor, murder can take place in the home. Although not in Bessemer, in September 2006, 22 month old George Amison slept in his bed in his apartment home in Fountain Heights on Birmingham’s north side. A bullet fired from outside came through the wall and killed him. The same could happen here in Bessemer.
The solution, according to the mayor, would be for each one of the audience members, to tell another resident about Jesus, and for that resident to do the same, until all of Bessemer had converted. His good v. evil philosophy reminds me of the president.
Mr. Mayor (and Mr. President), you can not frame everything as either good or evil. That’s part of the reason we are failing in Iraq, and it is the reason that progress is not being made in Bessemer.
There was no talk of finding a way to occupy kid’s minds and time with something useful and productive, like a rec center. No talk of tearing down dilapidated buildings that attract criminals. No talk of rooting out drug dealers and manufacturers. No talk of bringing in programs that allow kids to have supervision in the afternoons while parents are working. No talk of encouraging neighbors to get to know each other, and increasing efforts of neighborhood watch associations. No talk of opening a police substation on Dartmouth Avenue (this is not a knee jerk suggestion; crime on Dartmouth Avenue is nothing new), no talk of police making an effort to get to know the residents.
I take that back. There was talk of those things, just not from city officials. Elvira Kidd, Susan Lehman and I have decided that since current leadership is lacking, and since we do not have neighborhood associations like Birmingham does, we will start our own association. We have called a meeting for every resident of Dartmouth Avenue from Highway 150 to the Bessemer city limit. Later we hope our efforts will spread to surrounding streets. At this initial meeting we will be assessing the needs of our street from the viewpoint of those present and then brainstorming to hear possible actions that we might later decide to take. We will not be solving the problems this week, but we will at least be talking about them. It’s a start. If you live on Dartmouth Avenue, you will receive a flyer this week inviting you.
Prayer is fine and I am all for it. But prayer without action is useless, in fact it may even be counterproductive, lulling the faithful into a false security and allowing them to ignore real problems for which human feet rather than God’s hands might provide real solutions. Susan, Elvira and I will be using our feet beginning this week.