Jada is a third grader at Camden Forward School. For her prize-winning MLK speech she wrote about her admiration of Dr. Betty Shabazz and Mrs. Coretta Scott King, both widows of the civil rights movement who continued the fight after their husbands’ deaths. After acknowledging them she wrote:
“I live in Camden City, one of the worst cities in America. One can say it’s a city without hope. In 2012, Camden city set a record with 59 (actually it was 67) homicides. That’s the highest murder rate in the country. Sadly, two of those homicides affected my family. On April 12th my cousin Nicholas, age 19, was murdered and the 6 months later, on October 28th, my Uncle Luis also became a victim of Camden violent crime.”
I shared Jada’s story this morning at church. Our Social Justice and Advocacy committee asked me to share specific examples of how gun violence impacts youth. Prior to this job, when I read about a homicide I thought about the victim, and maybe about the perpetrator, but I will admit I didn’t give a lot of thought to the ripple effect on those left behind. Now it’s all I think about.
I also shared a story I heard early on: of a 6 year old who drew her own image with dots, instead of with lines. Turns out her father had been shot multiple times and was critically ill. This child represented herself on paper with bullet holes.
I do believe that if legislation would be passed that would lessen the amount – and the types – of guns on the streets, this cycle of violence would lessen. When guns are readily available, people who live with in the toxic environment of family dysfunction and poverty are likely to use them. I don’t believe that without guns there would be no violence – but I do believe that the results would be less permanent than death.
After I shared these stories, people asked what they can do. One is to take a moment to contact your congresspeople. The Presbyterian denomination has an easy way for you to do this: if you go to
and subscribe to Witness Washington Weekly, you will receive prompts to write to your legislators about important issues. And better yet, once you complete the first response every time thereafter the program will autofill your personal information. It is so easy now to have a voice about these important issues.
Another is to volunteer to spend time with youth. As I have written before, just being there to hear their stories and to validate them, sets them on the path to recovery. We don’t have to be experts in this. We just have to be there.
Jada ends her speech this way:
“Although this has been difficult for my family it has motivated me to bring about change. I believe that we can turn Camden around. With God’s help anything is possible. We can become a city of hope, love and promise. Let us become the change we all want to see. I believe in Camden city. I belong in Camden city. I will become Camden city. Thank you and have a great night.”