FridayFiled under Social Justice
by Donna Harris
For my first blog entry I will devote to the tragic killing of Donald Stevens, an East High School student, on the early morning of September 17. I did not know this young man but I am saddened by his death because he will never be able to fulfill his fullest potential. I am troubled that he was the sixth young person under 20 to die as a result of violence in Rochester.
Some of the discussion about Donald Steven’s death has focused on the fact that he was on the city streets past the city curfew of 11 p.m. This line of thinking suggests that if Donald had complied with the curfew policy, then he would still be with us today. However this tragic killing could have happened before the curfew. Are we suggesting that this young man’s behavior played into his own death? Would we find it more palatable if Donald has been killed at 10:30 p.m. and not 12:30 a.m.? As a result, should the public be less sympathetic about this loss? In reviewing the blog discussion on the Democrat and Chronicle, the commentary about this event, comments either questioned why Donald Stevens was on the street after the 11 p.m. city-imposed curfew or focused on the senselessness associated with this loss of this young person. Regardless of whether we fully understand the circumstances that led to this young man being on the streets alone at night, I must ask why the city streets are not safe at any time of the day. If Donald Stevens had not been the victim at this time, there is the possibility that the victim would have been someone else.
This tragic event shows that the curfew policy alone cannot shield all youth from harm and does not address the issue of illegal guns on city streets that are used to commit crime. The continuing violence in Rochester causes great alarm because too many African American adolescents and young men are either being buried or being arrested for crimes that will incarcerate them for many years. We must be concerned with what will happen to our community if a disproportionate number of males in Donald Steven’s generation disappear because they are either dead or in jail. This loss will have direct implications for our social and public institutions including families and schools. The disproportionate death and incarceration rates among African American males and the poor must part of a larger initiative that addresses their realities. What needs to change in Rochester in order to decrease violence? What will it take to start a social movement to preserve the lives of our youth?