Help us Stop the Violence in Natchez

Published 12:26 am Sunday, December 23, 2018

Good morning, Natchez. Before I start this commentary, I would like to first wish all of my fellow Natchezians a happy and safe holiday season.

Now that I we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s address the 500-pound gorilla in the room plaguing our fair city — violence.

We as a community have been literally held hostage by this sudden and tragic wave of senseless violence that has pestered out beloved city this year.

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Over the past few months, I have had the distinct pleasure of being involved with a small group of concerned citizens of varying races and backgrounds and have partnered with local law enforcement who have blatantly had enough to encourage our community motto, “See Something, Say Something”!

As a community action committee, we have created a youth mentoring outreach program for kids of families who have recently lost loved ones, took to the streets to rally stop the violence marches, sponsored Halloween “Trick or Trunk” events and held “Toys for Tots” holiday drives in the same communities affected the most by violence to show that they are not forgotten.

These community outreach programs have been instrumental I believe in decreasing as much of this insanity as possible.

With that being said, I am far from naïve and know that we do not live in a land of utopia because to err is to be human and crime is inevitable. However, this is not the Natchez I know and love.

One factor that’s easy to pinpoint is that unemployment can have a direct impact and correlation to growing crime rates where lack of opportunities are farce. For instance, taking a look at our fair city, unemployment rates are at an all-time high where decent jobs are scarce and good-paying jobs are almost hard to come by or virtually non-existent. I can recall once upon a time where a high school graduate could easily walk off the stage and straight into a well-paying plant job with full benefits in tow in Natchez.

But just like the norm these days across the country, those good-paying manufacturing jobs no longer exist.

So, where does this leave us? I’ll tell you. It leaves us with both parents and their children competing for the same jobs in the same small town, meaning somebody has to leave Natchez. And, with no jobs brings no hope, and hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Now let us move on to the next issue at hand, leadership. As a community action organization, I have seen one of the most disturbing thing that hinders change — a lack of leadership in our city.

While both the Natchez Police Department and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office have done an outstanding job with apprehending many of the culprits that have committed these murders, it is also up to us as citizens of this city to collectively work together with local law enforcement agencies toward a non-violent Natchez.

Our elected city and county officials and out clergy community need to also step up for our city and become foot soldiers on the frontlines of change.

The way I see it, we have had little to no support as a community action organization from our local elected officials or our clergy. However, Supervisor Calvin Butler and Sheriff Travis Patten, I applaud you. The support you both have shown our organization has been invaluable and you are to be commended.

But where are the representatives of your wards? Where are the clergy in those urban high-crime communities? I will tell you — absent and unaccountable.

You have to understand that this movement to save our young black men from themselves will take more than a village. It’s going to take holding people accountable. People fail to realize young black men killing one another in our streets is bigger than a coffee shop conversation.

It’s bigger than community prayer vigils. And it’s damned sure bigger than gratification through publicity because these young black males are worth far more than empty campaign promises. And although I wholeheartedly believe in the power of prayer, faith without works is dead. We have a black board in both the city and county.

Where are these murders happening? In your wards and in your districts.

Natchez has a long-standing history of voting by color line that really needs to stop. I don’t care what your nationality or race is, if you are qualified and capable to run, you deserve the seat, period.

As I conclude, I would like to thank all of my committee members who have unselfishly sacrificed their time, energy and compassion in staying vigilant on the frontlines of change. Your unwavering dedication is to be commended and shows a true character and Christian love to give of yourselves for such a worthy cause. Thank you for going into these grieving communities and sitting with heartbroken families affected by these senseless murders.

The last thing I want to ever do again is to hug another parent of a dead child and have no words of comfort. But at the end of the day, I am hopeful that we as a community all want the same thing — stop the violence, no more silence.

This community is strong. It is resilient and it is caring, and I am 10 toes deep in this struggle, but will you come? I know my city and together we can do it because we are Natchez Strong. In moving our great city forward, let’s be a part of the solution, Natchez, not part of the problem.

Barney J. Schoby Jr. is leader of the Stop the Violence Committee in Natchez.