This weekend on the Saturday Six Pack we’ll be discussing Ypsilanti’s recent wave of teen violence with Mayor Amanda Edmonds, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton, Superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, community activist Jeannette Hadden, and local high school student Justin Thomas, who will be representing the teen organization Dedicated to Make a Change. While we will be talking about law enforcement activities within the city, and what’s being done to ensure that our neighborhoods don’t see any more gunfire, a majority of our time, I suspect, will be spent discussing what positive steps can be taken within our community to support and empower the young people of Ypsilanti… young people who are growing up in a world of limited opportunity, where, at least statistically speaking, young men probably have a better chance of being arrested than of reaching the ranks of the middle class.
This isn’t, of course, to say that those guilty of gang-related felonies are not responsible for their actions. They are. The reality of the situation, however, is that many of these kids who we’re now trying to round-up and incarcerate never stood much of a chance. With the wealth disparity in the country climbing to historically unprecedented levels, and austerity measures being forced upon communities such as ours in order to finance tax breaks for the super wealthy, it was only a matter of time before we started seeing things like this happen. When American jobs get sent oversees, driving adults into minimum wage jobs that had traditionally been held by teens, while, at the same time, budgets for programs serving our at-risk youth are being slashed, is it any wonder that an increasing percentage of our kids will gravitate toward crime? Speaking of which, two 14 year olds and a 15 year old were arrested this afternoon in connection with an armed robbery on Ferris Street… Our young people, I think it’s safe to say, have too much free time on their hands, too few role models, and too little in the way of opportunity. It’s a deadly combination, and we’re beginning to see the ramifications in Ypsilanti. And that’s what we’ll be discussing come Saturday evening.
By way of context, this has been an unusually violent summer in Ypsilanti, with over a half a dozen incidents of gun violence in July alone, leaving one young man dead and another wounded. According to the police, the murdered young man, Keandre Duff, was likely shot in the head and killed just after midnight on the morning of July 12 at an Ypsilanti block party due to his alleged involvement in the murder last summer of 17-year-old Keon Washington. [Duff was a suspect in the murder of Washington, but was ultimately released from police custody due to lack of evidence after having served 297 days for drug charges unrelated to the murder. He was murdered shortly after his release from jail.] Since the murder of Duff earlier this month, there have been over half a dozen shootings across town, as friends of the dead young men have gone after one another. Whether or not you think the term “gang” is appropriate in this instance, it seems clear that this is essentially a war between two groups of young men; one called Rakk Life, and the other called Finesse Gang. [Duff, it would seem, had an affiliation with Rakk Life, while Washington was involved with Finesse Gang.]
As for this Saturday’s show, I should add that I know there are people who should be in the room with us who will not be. The panel I’ve assembled does not include, for instance, anyone from the local religious community, or anyone working in the social services. Given space constraints in the room, however, I had to made some difficult choices. If this works, though, you can be sure that other such discussions will follow, and, if so, we’ll be sure to invite representatives from other agencies, other elected officials, etc. The important thing from my perspective, as I’ve said before on this site, is that we don’t just forget about this issue once the bullets stop flying, and things return to normal for us adults. We cannot, as Sheriff Clayton said at last week’s press conference, just rely on law enforcement to lock up the people we perceive as being bad. That’s not how one goes about creating a decent, livable city. No, we need to look at the underlying causes and address them in a substantive way. And, to the credit of many on this panel, some of that is already happening.
So, if you care about the future of this community, please tune in at 6:00 PM on Saturday. Or, better yet, give us a call at 734.217.8624 and share your thoughts as to what we as community can do better when it comes to our children. [You can also leave your ideas for questions here.]
And, at 7:30, once we’ve collectively solved all of Ypsi’s problems, we’ll be joined by the band Minihorse, who will be playing live in the studio… hopefully making us all feel better with their special brand of fuzzy power pop.
AND, HERE, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NEVER TUNED IN TO THE SIX PACK BEFORE, ARE THE DETAILS ON HOW TO LISTEN:
And for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the show, and need to get caught up, you can listen to the entire archive on iTunes.
One last thing… If you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, feel free to share the Facebook event listing. Or, if you’re not on Facebook, you could always rent a plane to pull a banner across the sky.
And do call us if you have a chance. We love phone calls. So please scratch this number into the cinder block wall of the recreation room of whichever facility you’ve been assigned to… 734.217.8624… and call us between 6:00 and 8:00 this Saturday evening. The show is nothing without you. And I mean that.
update: I just got word from the owner of AM 1700 that, due to a family emergency, we won’t be broadcasting tomorrow evening. Our thoughts are with him and his family, and we’re sorry to all of you who were looking forward to the show. Our hope is that we can get back on the air shortly, and pick up where we left off.