Kenneth L. Hardin: After another shooting, will anyone show they actually care?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 2, 2022

By Kenneth L. Hardin

Contrary to what people have written and erroneously labeled me as, I’m not an angry guy. I try not to allow things to gain that much control of me to cause a physiological reaction, but it happened last Wednesday night.

The impetus for this vexation stemmed from being informed about another senseless, yet unsurprising, instance of gun violence here.

I have the bedtime of a toddler, so I was already sound asleep when my phone began its vibrating dance routine on the nightstand. I ignored the first several calls, thinking about who would be ringing me at the unholy hour of 9 p.m. After the humming and vibrating failed to wane, I picked up to a notification that initially had me feeling like, ho hum, well another one. But this one hit differently.

As the videos and pictures from the callers began pouring in, and hearing from a father who shared how his daughter was trampled in the melee, a mass of anger began to swell up inside me.

I lashed out hard, operating like a verbal assault weapon. I sprayed in many different directions because I felt there was a lot of blame to go around. I pointed in the direction of the city and laid the majority of the blame at what I’ve seen with decades of inaction and a perceived lack of concern about gun violence. With most of it occurring within the boundaries of the hood, I surmised this has led to the absence of concern by city leadership. It’s interesting how money and resources are always available for playthings for the wealthy, but never for those in the margins. Money is always tight when the hood asks, but not for another park or upgrades.

I’ve been calling out the growing gang and gun violence going back to the early ‘90s, but have been labeled as the boogeyman and a disruptor.

In May 2015, I told the council the city was at a tipping point and would explode in violence if nothing was done. I was ignored.

During my time on the Salisbury City Council, my voice was silenced, I was cut out of the communication loop and my ideas on how to address the violence weren’t respected.  Instead of seeking a collaborative effort and involving those with insight into the issue, people in larger high-back chairs played political games and continued to ignore the growing problem. A dog and pony show press conference was held trying to convince people they cared. Is it because it didn’t happen in the hood?

My anger increased when I thought of how my efforts to bring a Boys and Girls Club here were met with staunch resistance. I was told by a City Council member and United Way vice president they wouldn’t support the initiative because it would take money from the YMCA. Maybe he didn’t realize the kids going to the Boys and Girls Club wouldn’t be going to the YMCA, or he just didn’t care. Regardless of the motivation, they were aided by others in the philanthropy club here who also worked against the effort to seal its fate.

So many other intervention efforts were either dismissed or ignored by city leaders.

I received a picture of the blood-splattered gym floor, and tied it back to all those who denied or opposed efforts to give at-risk kids an outlet and opportunity. You’ve done little to address this, and here is the result.

As I read the comments from skinfolk faking the funk for likes, my ire was directed at my people, too. We’ve failed as a culture and a community by allowing this scourge to fester. There are so many social media keyboard activists and revolutionaries who will fight the power from a monitor, but won’t go vote.

They’ll raise a fist against racism and inequity, but won’t hold each other to the same standard. They’re willing to call out the shooters names online, but won’t pick up the phone and call the police.  Pointless Cease Fire initiatives look ridiculous when no one is actually ceasing any firing.  Is a Black leader even necessary?

Since Wednesday night, song lyrics have been playing in my head that speak to our need to do something more than ignoring the problem because it’s not in your zip code, or the perpetrators look like you, “No more backward thinkin’, time for thinkin’ ahead. The world has changed so very much from what it used to be … The world won’t get no better if we just let it be.”

Wednesday night’s anger turned into a weekend of indifference.  I share the sentiment of the many I’ve spoken with. Within two weeks, the city will go back to ignoring the issue, and Black anger will subside. Besides, MLK Day is coming, so everyone is getting ready for the show.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a former city councilman, and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.