Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Non-Violence Must Prevail

Jan 11, 2011

Today, we are mourning.  As a collective nation, we are suffering the senseless loss of life in Arizona, the vitriol in our public discourse that may have contributed to this heinous act and our inability to stop it before it ripped a deep hole into the very fabric of our democracy.  While most of us attempt to digest this vicious attack, we cannot ignore the fact that gun usage and violence are destroying our communities all across this great country of ours.  We can no longer disregard the notion that guns are too readily accessible to folks and a culture of hostility exists all around us.  If we weren’t motivated to take substantive action to save ourselves before, at the very least, Arizona’s shootings should push us to now do so without hesitation.

Next Monday, January 17th, National Action Network (NAN) will host our annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Washington, D.C. and New York.  Honoring the legacy and memory of our great civil rights leader, NAN, along with various educators, clergy, academics, public advocates and more will peacefully convene in both cities as we seek solutions to some of today’s toughest challenges.  Included among our focus will be the urgent and dire need to diminish the stats on gun violence and violence in general.  Building on Dr. King’s notion of peaceful resolution, we will work Monday and throughout the year to remind us all of this ever-timely message and how we can continue to carry his vision and dream.

The killings of six in Arizona – including a 9-year-old girl – and the severe wounding of many others including Congresswoman Giffords should undeniably serve as a wake up call for everyone.  But for those of us in the Black community, our wake up call should have rang years ago.  When the majority of victims of gun violence are young Black men, and when innocent children and grandmothers have lost their lives simply walking down the street in their neighborhood or worse yet, sitting at home, we are in a crisis.  I cannot begin to mention the countless number of funerals I have attended with crying mothers, fathers and loved ones who are left struggling to make some sense out of tragedy much like we all are with Arizona.

As one who has served as a fierce advocate in the fight against police brutality, and been on the forefront of numerous cases involving excessive force, I cannot dismiss our own need to put the weapons down.  Sadly, it isn’t always the police shooting at us; too often it is us killing each other.  I am in no way denying that injustice and abuse at the hands of police officers exists, but I am holding all of us accountable to do our part in ending the cycle of violence.  If we want to see change around us, we must change the way in which we conduct ourselves.

Recently, NAN held an unprecedented gun buyback program in NY in conjunction with the NYPD.  Peacefully collecting guns from folks from all walks of life and from a multitude of ethnicities, we began a program that we hope will soon be replicated across the nation.  Sadly, a bullet knows no color and instead indiscriminately chooses its victims as we so tragically witnessed this past weekend.

Next week, as we gather in both Washington, D.C. and New York along with elected officials like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten, we cannot lose sight of our main goal:  seeking solutions to our gravest challenges – education and violence.  The two are inextricably linked and in order to rectify the rampant rise in aggression, we must ensure that more of our youth are instead armed with books.

Join us January 17th as we honor and celebrate the lessons of the past and lay down the groundwork for our future just as the great Dr. King would have wanted us all to do.