Jamala Rogers

The carnage of black bodies this summer, especially children, took a toll of all of us who care about humanity and who tirelessly work for racial justice. What compounded this bloody summer’s negative impact is the way some chose to respond to the crisis.

The Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression (CAPCR) led the grassroots efforts to bring a violence-prevention program to the attention of a city often referred to the Murder Capital. Cure Violence(CV) is a health-centered, evidenced-based program producing dramatic reductions in high-violence cities.

What’s so disgusting to me is to find out that Cure Violence was asked to come to town about four years ago. What happened? Absolutely nothing. Had the city taken its violence problem seriously, it would have embraced CV then and Bloody Summer 2019 might have been averted.

While Mayor Lyda Krewson’s head was in the sand and others were victim-blaming, CAPCR studied the program for almost two years to confirm CV’s bold claims. Once convinced, CAPCR put up the money for the CV team to do an assessment of the St. Louis crime situation. Grieving families and a desperate community were looking for effective solutions.

CV’s Marcus McAllister traveled here in June, making a compelling case to bring the program to St. Louis. He also got questions and concerns from elected and appointed officials, health providers, community groups and other stakeholders. There’s no doubt that our city is in bad shape; most agreed we needed Cure Violence.

In a serious scenario, all parties would have pulled together to identify the needed funding and cut through the bureaucracy to get the program going by any means necessary. Several funding streams were identified – but then the politricking kicked in even as the body count increased. The mayor has been hi-jacking the community-driven process behind the scenes while publicly expressing alarm over the violence. It’s slowing down the implementation of a plan long overdue.

While we were working through heartache and trauma,  some folks were faking concern about the violence but unwilling to put time and energy into seeking alternatives.  There was the outrageous challenge that a multi-million program that benefitted black folks was not the best use of city dollars. I’d love to see this kind of scrutiny of the police department’s bloated budget.

Speaking of the police department, the St. Louis Police Officers Association talked about broken urinals and bald tires on police cars in the middle of Cure Violence discussions – as if to say the money proposed for CV could be better spent on police needs.

Those of us who are active in community-building know that violence and crime are symptoms of deeper problems. Like poverty, under-employment and unemployment, miseducation, unhealth care – created by systems of oppression and fueled by racism. These are issues that elected officials on the local, state and federal level can do something about. Ditto for civic and corporate leaders.

Getting $5 million passed for Cure Violence by the Board of Aldermen was no small feat. It was truly a collective effort. With these kinds of controversial  issues, only the most committed push forward, dragging those with hidden agendas behind them. Those who straddle the fence think they will have a win-win situation.  They can say, “I told you so” whether there’s success or failure.

Making St. Louis livable for all is a task for all of us who share a vision of a more just and equitable region. We’ll be working side by side with those fighting just as hard for an unjust and inequitable St. Louis. It’s time to cure the violence. It’s time to cure the politricking. 

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