Arresting ‘Death Alley’ gun violence

LOS ANGELES-Following gun laws in South Los Angeles is not a priority. Survival is at the top of the agenda. If you live, work or go school within the  parameters of South Los Angeles’s “Death Alley,” going a day without gunfire raining out of the sky is probably like celebrating Christmas. More guns in this particular area of town literally means no peace.

In one weekend this past summer, seven shooting incidents left 11 people injured. In another recent incident, a man shot was while just riding the bus within that corridor. There are more horror stories, too many to count and just too much to absorb without going into anger or tears.

The list of victims of gun violence is too long. The cycle has become too old. Something new is needed. Something fresh with growth has to take over. Monday evening, a takeover in spirit, took over the area as community, faith and political leaders gathered for a prayer vigil to reclaim the land. There was energy. There was power. There was sincerity.

They lined the streets, holding hands with one another, believing and praying that change is going to come. They need for it to come. If black lives truly mattered then perhaps there would be no need for them to join hand with their fellow man to ask God to purge the stench of death from the place that has become “Death Alley.”

As it is, prayer works. It has to work. It has to make sense of the many senseless killings. It has to change the mindsets of the young men and women caught up in the vein life of criminality. It has to come through in the form of jobs, education and opportunity. With that, comes hope. Before Assemblyman Mike Gipson called a meeting of the minds with faith and community leaders to join him in the call to help get things changed, there had not been much hope to think about.

City of Refuge Senior Pastor Bishop Noel Jones/Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/
City of Refuge Senior Pastor Bishop Noel Jones/Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/

There hasn’t been much of that since the Los Angeles riots of 1992 took place. It pretty much has be more the same in this particular area of apathy. Over the years, the corridor of Manchester and Vermont avenues in South Los Angeles has become a place of apathetic ritual, budding poverty and continuous criminal activity. Just surviving constitutes having a good day.

More than anything else, this stretch of iron-clad shops, rundown businesses, vacated lots and gritty living, has become a marker of the deceased, a market of gun violence fatalities. But this is just not a Los Angeles problem. Pick an urban community across the country, and you’ll find that same issue existing in those neighborhoods as well. Baltimore. Chicago. Washington, D.C. Detroit. New York.

This is a black and brown stranglehold or more emphatically an “us” problem. It is a black-on-black and black-on-brown saga, two ethnic minority groups killing off one another. Whatever the reason, Gipson, a former police officer and City Council representative for the city of Carson, is tired of seeing and hearing about it.

So Gipson called on a few choice faith and community leaders to join him  for the “Arresting the Spirit of Violence” prayer vigil to address the violent influence that has gripped the neighborhood with a suppressed stranglehold. In August, there were 39 shooting deaths in Los Angeles, with just about half being centered in South Los Angeles.

“My passion is that there are too many of our children dying on these streets of Los Angeles and the surrounding communities,” Gipson said at the conclusion of the two-hour vigil. “I can’t be comfortable with this. I cannot be comfortable with hearing the statistics, seeing mothers crying out, because they’re asking the question, ‘Why their child was walking down the street, going home or going to school and their life being taken away? I can’t be comfortable with that.

“We can fund every community-based organization , every law enforcement organization and that still wouldn’t be enough. We need to go back to what we used to do, and that is to pray as a community, and invoke God’s presence to come down here and change some things. I believe it by faith that God is going to change the atmosphere because he’s heard the petition of the people on this street, that this street will never be the same because God heard their voices.”

Crenshaw Christian Center Pastor Frederick Price Jr. /Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/
Crenshaw Christian Center Pastor Frederick Price Jr. /Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/

This isn’t empty rhetoric coming from a politician trying to put on a good show for some of his constituents. Gipson is well-vested in his faith as a Christian with a background that includes having once served as a youth pastor for a local church. Fortunately, Gipson doesn’t have to carry this cross alone.

He has plenty of backup support from the faith community. Getting back to the basics of praying and canvasing the streets is what is needed to help quell the deathly gun violent atmosphere.

City of Refuge Senior Pastor Bishop Noel Jones, Crenshaw Christian Center Pastor Frederick Price Jr. and Greater Zion Pastor Michael J. Fisher, were among those represented in the faith community to come out and speak and pray with residents.

I think that we’re at the gate,” Price said. “I think that we’ve been at the gate for quite some time. I think that the increase of gang violence, and also, across the country, the relationship between the community residents and law enforcement is causing us to make us be in a position to knock that gate down and move into the yard and really make some change.

“I still think that we’re at the entry way…because of the temperature in the country, communities all around are really ready to do something. They’re really ready to be pro-active and take this violence head-on so we can bring about peace.”

Luther Keith Jr., a longtime gang intervention worker and activist, said help ushering in peace is why showed up for the vigil.

“I’m here to show the peace and unity for it to bring about peace to our community and help save our babies. That’s why I am here,” Keith said. “

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