Habari Gani: A Focus on Recent Events

Asiah's MOM-O Candlelight vigil
Asiah Figueroa's Mothers of Murdered Offspring Candlelight vigil

By Makheru Bradley

September 17, 2021 10:05AM
Makheru Bradley

We titled this series Habari Gani, a Kiswahili term we use during Kwanzaa, translated as “What’s New”, or “What is the News?” Our intent is to cover recent events that impact Afrikan people.

The Tyranny of Stray Bullets strike 3-year-old Asiah Figueroa in Charlotte
On a quiet Tuesday night, a peaceful northwest Charlotte neighborhood was turned into a shooting gallery. Unlike Gaza or Kabul, no one was firing back at the shooters. Inside one home a beautiful, sleeping, 3-year-old, Asiah Figueroa, was struck and killed as cold-bloodied killers wildly fired as many as 150 shots into his home on September 7. Asiah’s 4-year-old sister was wounded when one of the bullets grazed her. A neighbor’s camera captured grainy images of two cars driving up to the home and stopping to allow the shooters—armed with automatic weapons—to get out and blast Asiah’s home. Some of the bullets hit another home.

Many questions, very few answers so far
What prompted this group of people to fire into the Figueroa home? Where did they get automatic weapons? Was it connected to gangland activities? CMPD believes the murder of young Asiah was part of a crime wave that is connected to the September 5 killing of 16-year-old Jaylen Foster in northwest Charlotte. Two others were wounded in that shooting. A 14-year-old was arrested and charged with the murder of Foster, and with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, possession of a firearm by a minor, and possession of a stolen motor vehicle. CMPD reports 65 homicides so far in 2021, compared to 71 at this time last year when Charlotte recorded 121 homicides, one short of the 1993 record of 122 homicides.

Asiah's MOM-O Candlelight vigil
Asiah Figueroa's Father, Mother and Grandmother at his Mothers of Murdered Offspring Candlelight vigil
Per CMPD, as of September 5 there were 661 shootings into occupied properties, an 11% increase from the same time in 2020. On September 7, there were four shootings into northwest Charlotte homes before Asiah Figueroa was killed. Police believe all of these shootings are connected.

Two suspects have been arrested. Jacob Lanier, 21, was charged with murder, eight counts of attempted murder, nine counts of shooting into an occupied dwelling and conspiracy to commit murder. Qua’Tonio Stephens, 21, was charged with accessory after the fact to murder, and with seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill plus three counts of shooting into an occupied dwelling from an incident that occurred on September 7th in Figueroa’s neighborhood. Obviously, there are many others involved and probably additional crimes.

Charlotte’s Mayor asks for help
We have a crisis of violent crime with a devastating impact on an Afrikan American community in a city/county with a Black mayor, a Black chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, three consecutive Black police chiefs, a Black county sheriff, a Black city manager, a Black district attorney and a host of Black elected officials on the city council, and county commissioners. We have those officials in addition to representatives in the state legislature and the US Congress. They should all be embarrassed. We had less crime, when we had no Black elected officials.

They always claim they are elected to serve everyone, but in terms of critical issues, everyone never gets served. These neocolonial politicians are at a loss when they cannot throw symbols at real problems.

After the killing of 3-year-old Asiah Figueroa, Charlotte's mayor Vi Lyles said: "These incidents that are taking place that result in the loss of the three-year-old. It is because someone's not willing to tell us how to do better, how to stop it?"

No one can stop it without first understanding how it started, and that is an issue that most of the people who manage the various power structures of this country, be they Black politicians or whomever, refuse to honestly deal with. For example, we live in a country which teaches people that retaliatory violence is the first response to any conflict.

We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. Arrests can never keep up with the number of delinquents being manufactured by criminogenic America.

If these politicians like Mayor Lyles were serious, they would be funding prevention and remediation programs that are culturally-oriented to deal with the issues that are specifically facilitating the self-destructive behavior and violence of too many young Afrikan American males in this city. Then, positive cultural transformations must be directly connected to economic outcomes. However, that gets to the issue of holding power versus merely holding office.

Understanding Black Adolescent Male Violence
Any serious program/curriculum attempting to remediate/prevent violence in the Afrikan community would include studies of the works of Dr. Amos N. Wilson including: The Developmental Psychology of the Black Child; Black-On-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination; Understanding Black Adolescent Male Violence: Its Remediation and Prevention, and The Psychology of Self-Hatred and Self-Defeat: Towards a Reclamation of the Afrikan Mind.

Regarding “Understanding Black Adolescent Male Violence,” Dr. Wilson says: In this volume we present what may be called an “interactionist” explanatory approach to understanding the causes of Black male adolescent criminality in many of America’s ghettos. Unlike the standard obscurantist, defensive, question-begging, one-factor explanations offered by Eurocentric criminology which predictably ends up blaming the victims--and recommending their lengthy incarceration and/or execution--we offer herein a multi-causal explanation, the implications of which if appropriately translated into educational, rehabilitative, social and institutional reorganization, would move us beyond blaming to resolving.

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress
In 2014, The Atlantic reported that more than 260,000 Black men had been killed in the US since 1980. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that: Young Black men and teens made up more than a third of firearm homicide victims in the USA in 2019… Although Black men and boys ages 15 to 34 make up just 2% of the nation's population, they were among 37% of gun homicides that year.

USA Today reported in 2013 that: In 2008 and 2009, Black children and teenagers were just 15% of the nation's population but 45% of young people killed by guns.

We know that for the oligarchic power structure of this country the violence taking the lives of Black males serves political and economic purposes. It is eliminating an unwanted population.

This is the 3rd wave of massive violence affecting Afrikan Americans since the mid-1960s. We fought off the waves brought to us by the introduction of heroin into our communities in the 1960s/70s, and by crack cocaine in the 1980s/90s. There was a plethora of gang violence during those waves, but this particular wave seems to be taking younger and younger Black lives.

The Afrikan American community has to take the lead and marshal our forces to solve this crisis. Frederick Douglass said: “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” Our endurance of this Tyranny of Stray Bullets, taking so many youthful lives, must end. We can do this!

For more from the author, follow his blog Makheru Speaks.

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