In 2007 Richmond California was ranked America’s ninth most dangerous city. In 2013 Richmond was ranked America’s 69th dangerous city. Homicide rates are dropping nationally, but not steep enough. The homicide crisis in the black community is overwhelmingly a gun violence problem. These are real lives being destroyed, families devastated, and entire communities torn apart.
Richmond’s 7th annual “Put the Guns Down” is a free community event and will be held September 13th from 1 to 5 pm at the John F. Kennedy Park at 43rd and Cutting blvd. There will be music, free food, face-painting and jumpers for the children, a bike rodeo, and motivational speakers. There will be free haircuts for youth under 12.
Elena Bolds is the organizer of the event and says the idea came to her in 2007 when Richmond seemed to have a killing every day. At the time I was a professional funeral singer. Bold has sung at local funerals for over 20 years and says, “I noticed that I had collected a bag of obituaries for young people. I said to myself, these should be graduation program. I decided to do something about it”. It was then she decided to hold her first “Put the Guns Down” event. “I started the event, because I got tired of senseless killings of our babies”.
The show is sponsored by the Visions of Hope Project for Youth, The Richmond Police and The Crescent Park resident’s council. Speakers featured are activists and families that have personal experience with community violence.
Mother Carla Williams will be telling her story of how in 2012 her son, William Adams III, then 24, was
gunned down in a drive by shooting on the streets of Oakland. She says it was a late night call at 2:00 am that told of him coming out of night-club late night as a performer with a group called “NHT” (No Home Training) when he was shot in a drive by. Williams says they suspect a former disgruntle member, but his murder remains unsolved. Williams says, they have video footage, but needed witnesses. “No one came forward due to the , No snitching street mentality”, Williams says emotionally.
Another testimony will come from Daryl Russel who lost both his sons 15, 19. Both were killed on the streets of Richmond. Bolds sung at both funerals. Rev. Donna Allen of New Revelations Community Church will be bringing opening prayer.
While the drop in Richmond’s violent crime is pronounced, it’s also part of a larger trend. Oakland saw a 30 percent reduction in homicides and a slight drop in overall crimes in 2013. San Jose reported 44 killings, a drop of two from 2012, and San Francisco’s homicides fell from 69 to 48. The regional trend mirrors a national one of major urban centers such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York reporting steep drops in killings
Things are turning around but gun violence continues to plague or neighborhoods and our youth continue to be shot down in senseless murders, it is time to take a stand.