“If you see something, say something” has become a cliché, but unfortunately one to which we often feel we must resort to stem the tide of violence in the Pan-Afrikan Community.
The Family of Victorious Swift is seeking justice for their son and brother, who was killed in a robbery on March 26 near Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore City. While it is believed that DNA evidence can find his killer (they fought before his assailant drew a weapon, and it is believed that the assailant’s skin and other DNA were found on Victorious’s hands as a result), the Swift Family is appealing to anyone who may have seen what happened to alert the authorities.
Despite the historic distrust that often has existed between Pan-Afrikan activists and the police because of such incidents as the killing of Freddie Gray in 2015, which activists are convinced occurred because of the actions of Baltimore City Police, the fact remains that, without a viable force in the community to investigate acts of violence and ensure community security, the police are often the only recourse available in cases such as this one. Meanwhile, affected families and friends of the victims of senseless violence continue to struggle to find personal healing and to make sense of what has happened to their communities.
On Friday, April 14, a special meeting was held at the Union Mill in West Baltimore. It was called and sponsored by the Afrikan Heritage Walk-A-Thon and its Founder, Mama Victory Swift, in memory of her son. The meeting was called to bring together families who had lost loved ones to the violence that continues to plague our communities.
The first meeting drew between 25 and 30 participants, including four families who had lost members to violence in the past. Several of Mama Victory’s children attended the event as well, and gave voice to their personal pain as well as the resolve they feel to make the violence stop.
This was not just an opportunity for families to commiserate, however. Ideas for healing the community were discussed, from supporting education to establishing neighborhood watch patrols. Cameras need not be police cameras, either; several local properties apparently use cameras to monitor their immediate residences, and the possibility of improving community cohesiveness so monitoring efforts can be community-led were also discussed. Ultimately, the community needs healing so that those who consider criminality may find an alternative that helps build the community instead of tearing it down. Organizations such as the Pan-Afrikan Liberation Movement (PLM), to which Victorious was a regular contributor, operate not far from the neighborhood where the shooting took place, but other organizations must come together with PLM to coordinate a city-wide strategy and program to lift the community up.
The previous week, the memorial service for Victorious Swift, a much-loved and respected art student, boxer, musician and community activist, had drawn over 300 people and sparked a re-awakening of a sense of urgency among community organizers and Pan-Afrikan activists.
Mama Victory says that this was not the last such meeting that is planned. More gatherings for families of the victims of violence will be planned, and a website has been established to continue the work that was started on this day. The Website “Our Victorious City” (https://www.ourvictoriouscity.org/) makes the following Mission Statement:
Over the past few years, gun violence has risen to the forefront of public consciousness. Much of the debate has focused on gun regulation and keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of potential killers, particularly those with mental illnesses. Unfortunately, far less attention has been dedicated to the impact of gun violence on victims. While individuals killed and injured in atrocities such as the Sandy Hook and Aurora Theater shootings are publicly remembered and mourned, victims of these tragedies are not limited to those men, women, and children killed, injured, or present during these horrific events. The consequences of gun violence are more pervasive and affect entire communities, families, and children. With more than 25% of children witnessing an act of violence in their homes, schools, or community over the past year, and more than 5% witnessing a shooting, it becomes not just an issue of gun regulation, but also of addressing the impact on those who have been traumatized by such violence (Finkelhor et al., 2009). Outside of those traumatized, there are the ones who witness violent crimes occur and impede police investigations, making it nearly impossible to put an end to this spiraling epidemic. This organization’s manifestation arises from the violent death of Victorious Khan Aziz Swift. He was a 19 year old architectural student with an illuminated future and talent in droves. He had no children, no wife, just 6 brothers and sisters and a mother who refuse to let him die in vain. Our mission is to end street/gun/violence once and for all. This is an epidemic that some of us believed to be an outside problem, until it rings our front doorbell.
The site includes news reports, videos of Victorious Swift and links to facilitate contact, donations and further organizing.
There are related efforts being developed to attempt to wake our people up, particularly in the Baltimore, Maryland area. The organization BlackMen Unifying BlackMen (BMUBM) is planning a “No Excuses Rally” in the Pimlico area of Baltimore City on May 27. An official announcement of that rally, including a flyer that is being created, will be shared by us before the end of April. And there are organizations working to pull these many groups together into cooperative coalitions that may ultimately evolve into something akin to a Pan-Afrikan United Front so that different organizations can work together as they never have before to help bring an end to the systematic oppression but also the violence and self-loathing that so often makes life so hard for people of Afrikan descent around the world.