We Are Losing Too Many Young Black People to Violence


April 4, 2019 4:20PM
Makheru Bradley

The recent losses of three young Black lives are a reflection of the spectrum of violence we are dealing with in 2019. On March 14, Charlotte native, 21-year-old Taemon Blair, was found hanging inside his long distance truck in Indiana. On March 25, 27-year-old Danquirs Franklin, an author and father of three, was killed by CMPD officer Wende Kerl, and on March 28, 27-year-old Kendal Crank, a mother of two, on her way to school was killed as she rode into crossfire between two groups of young Black men.

Was Taemon Blair lynched?

The family of Taemon Blair, who was preparing to be a father and a husband, is demanding a continuing investigation after the Allen County (Indiana) Coroner’s Office declared “asphyxia due to hanging” to be the official cause of Blair’s death. The coroner said he died by suicide.

Blair’s family raises several issues. Per Blair’s mother, Taesha Hunt, a detective suggested the cause of death was not suicide. Hunt said, “They lifted his neck and it looked like someone tried to decapitate him.” According to Hunt, the detective said the dashboard of Blair’s truck was “kicked in,” indicating a possible struggle inside the truck.

Blair’s brother, Dee Smith, raises the most serious challenge to the coroner’s findings. Smith said, “He (Blair) was 6’5, I thought to myself, how could he hang himself inside of a truck when he’s so tall.” As a person who’s driven those trucks, the claim that a person of Blair’s height could have enough room to hang himself inside the truck makes no sense.

An independent autopsy should be performed, and an independent forensic pathologist should be given access to the truck. The analysis of the county coroner and law enforcement defies logic.

A perceived threat and a dead Black man

People inside the Beatties Ford Burger King on March 25 called police as a man brandished a gun during a domestic altercation with a female employee. When Danquirs Franklin emerged from the Burger King, per the police he was given orders to drop his gun, which he allegedly did not do. Officer Wende Kurl perceived a threat and fired one shot killing Franklin. CMPD says that they found a gun. No forensic or video evidence of any kind, which could possibly clear this up, has been released. Amazingly, no cell phone videos of the incident have been released.

Some “eyewitnesses” claim that Franklin was not the person involved in the domestic altercation. Their statements led to immediate protests, including one organized by Charlotte Uprising. Members of the New Black Panther Party showed up to keep the peace.

The major concern here is what is meant by a “perceived threat?” It sounds like the often used police refrain, “I feared for my life.” The police have constantly used this refrain, and they’ve been believed by prosecutors and jurors, even when an unarmed Black suspect, like Walter Scott in North Charleston, was running away. There are just too many instances of what many of us consider an extra-judicial killing of a Black person, and the police officer is not even charged, much less convicted. We need to see all of the video evidence in the killing of Danquirs Franklin.

All Black lives must matter, not just those killed by the police

The scourge of violence in Charlotte continued on March 28 when Kendal Crank was killed while driving to her nursing classes. The killing of Ms. Crank is unfortunately the most common type of deadly violence affecting America’s Black communities. Three young Black males were arrested and charged with killing Ms. Crank.

As soon as word began to spread about Ms. Crank’s death, social media began to light up with comments from people asking, where are the protests about this Black-on-Black killing? These comments were a dig at the protests that took place after the police killing of Danquirs Franklin. The next day Project BOLT and several others gathered at the location where Ms. Crank was killed to hold a vigil and express their moral outrage at the senseless violence taking the lives of too many Black people. These vigils are a common, but an often overlooked occurrence when they’re murders of people such as Ms. Crank. However, we need more social action than vigils.

2019 has been a particularly violent year in Charlotte

CMPD began 2019 touting their success in reducing Charlotte’s homicides from 87 in 2017 to 57 in 2018. Generally, about 70 percent of Charlotte homicide victims are Black people, who comprise about 35 percent of Charlotte’s population. Police chief Kerr Putney “attributed 2018’s decrease in homicides, in part, to shifts in department policy.” Three months later Charlotte is on pace for 157 homicides which would break the record of 129 homicides set in 1993 during the crack cocaine epidemic. By 2014, Charlotte’s homicides had fallen to 42. Chief Putney needs to shift his department policy again, if that in fact is the reason why homicides fell in 2018.

What can the city government do? Think outside the box like Richmond, California

Homicides in Richmond fell from 47 in 2007 to 12 in 2014. Although there was increase in 2015 to 21 homicides, the credit for the reduction goes to a city leadership which was willing to think outside the box and try something different--empower grassroots people who know the streets best to intervene in the lives of those most likely to become victims and perpetrators of violence. Richmond funded an Office of Neighborhood Safety to help reduce its homicides.

What can the Black community do?

The slavery abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said, “The limits of tyrants are proscribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” On December 1, 1955 Mrs. Rosa Parks’ endurance of the tyranny of American Apartheid expired. The expiration of Mrs. Parks’ endurance of apartheid ignited a movement that reformed American society. Senseless community violence is a form of tyranny, except we never know when or where it’s going to strike. However, it is guaranteed to continue until our endurance of it expires, and we build something similar to the Civil Rights Movement to solve this problem.

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