Black male community leaders say they have a plan to address black-on-black crime, and it starts with gang leaders in North Charleston giving them a call.
Councilmen and activists gave their personal cellphone numbers at a Tuesday news conference outside the Felix Pinckney Community Center.
“We want to speak to each of you individually, and after speaking to you individually, we will speak to you collectively, just mature men to young men,” said Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby, one of four who gave out their number. “No media, no police officers, no women. Just us.”
There were about 10 men at the conference, which ended with them huddled in prayer. Three others also provided their numbers: community activist Jerome Heyward, North Charleston City Councilman Sam Hart and County Councilman Teddie Pryor.
Hart said black men needed to stand up for their community.
“I’m particularly involved in this because this is a problem deeply rooted in the black community,” he said.
No one particular incident spurred the idea, but Pryor mentioned concern over this year’s homicide numbers in North Charleston.
There have been 10 fatal shootings and one fatal stabbing, putting the city on pace to more than double last year’s homicide total. All of the victims were black — nine males and two females — according to The Post and Courier’s homicide database.
When asked why the group decided now to reach out, Pryor said, “Why not now? We have to start somewhere.”
Darby said the group has a plan to address rising violence in the community and among youth. Although they declined to give specifics, they want to begin by talking to black male gang members of all ages in the following four North Charleston areas: Liberty Hill, Ferndale, Dorchester-Waylyn and Remount Road. “This has nothing to do with you getting into trouble; this has nothing to do with trying to entrap you; this has nothing to do (with) snitching,” Darby said. “We need to talk face to face.”
North Charleston police are not involved with the group, but spokesman Spencer Pryor said the department is “supportive of any efforts to stopping the violence.”
Community activist Tory Fields said the group would need all the men they could get to reach out. He said he previously helped walk the streets to talk with black residents and disseminate information about various resources available to them. “We’re not at war with our own people,” he said. “We just need to bring them in.”
The group particularly asked that local black male leaders involved in civic clubs, fraternities, sororities and Masonic lodges reach out to help them connect with young men.
“It is black men who must lead this fight,” Darby said. “No other group or gender can speak to young black boys and young black men like mature black men.”
He asked for understanding from women and residents of other races who may criticize the group’s approach and said if it proves successful, there would be a time in the future for them to help.
Too much of the black community, the group said, has gone to the way of gangs, drugs, preteen and teenage sexual promiscuity and unemployment — all issues which they hope to eventually address. If successful in North Charleston, they plan to try the same approach in the city of Charleston and then areas of Charleston County.
“We must try every available strategy to get to our children, our young men,” Darby said.
Since Jan. 1, 2001, 73 black youths in the greater Charleston area have been shot to death, according to the homicide database. More staggering is the number of black children and adult teenagers alleged to have had a hand in murders here: 114.
Blacks in this age group, 19 and younger, accounted for about one of every 10 homicide victims and one of every five murder suspects.
“Our goal is simply to stop the killing,” Darby said.
He said if gang members don’t talk to their group, they will go to them. He said the grass-roots effort is similar to when community members formed Citizens Patrol Against Drugs in the Liberty Hill neighborhood and walked the streets to deter drug transactions.
“This is going beyond the patrol,” Darby added.
Reach Melissa Boughton at 843-937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.