At Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference in New York this week, a panel on gun violence featured the family members of victims of such violence — victims like the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, who was gunned down in Chicago just after performing at the inauguration of President Obama. Cleo Cowley told the convention what people can do to stop the killings.
MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): At Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference in New York this week, a panel on gun violence featured the family members of victims of such violence – victims like the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, who was gunned down in Chicago just after performing at the inauguration of President Obama. Cleo Cowley told the convention what people can do to stop the killings.
[PANEL ON VIOLENCE.]
MS. CLEO COWLEY: You know, get out there and embrace the youth. You know, [if] you see somebody that’s troubled, don’t walk away and just shun them. Help them. You know, it’s – you’d be amazed what a kind word could do. You know? You’d be amazed – [applause] – just how much you can do based on your own life experiences.
You know, we all have people that we know, people that are capable of doing things that we are not capable of doing, per se, ourselves, you know. If you see a young person out there, send them where they can get what they need. You know? Oftentimes, these children, you know, don’t have what they need at home. If they don’t have it at home; and they can’t get it, you know, by way of someone else, then they’re left to only themselves. And we already know what kids don’t know.
MS. COWLEY: You know. And so we can’t – how do I say? We have to sympathize with the ignorant sometimes. You know? If they say that, you know, “I’m just gonna go out here, and I’mma take it.” “I want that. I’m gonna take that,” and I haven’t been shown a better way, then however they go about doing that is to the best of their knowledge. You know.
So, I mean right now I’m in a room full of people that know wa-a-ay more than me. I was thrust into this. I embrace it, and I’m going to learn, and I’m going to keep speaking out, and I’m going to do some things and make some changes, too. I have to commit, myself.
But I do ask of you that know more than me to do something with what you have.
MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): The audience also heard from Herbert McFarlane, the father of Janay McFarlane, who was killed just hours after her sister attended a gun violence speech by President Obama in Chicago.
MR. HERBERT MCFARLANE: This is my baby. [Stands up to show a sweatshirt with her daughter’s image on the front of it.] She was 18 years old. [Applause.] She was in school. And most of all, she was my baby with a baby.
[SOUNDS OF SHOCK AND DISMAY FROM THE AUDIENCE.]
MR. MCFARLANE: I have a five-month-old grandson. We have a five-month-old grandson that we’re raising.
Just like this guy said, in our communities, when our people go down, they[’re] not remembered. When the politicians [were] up here talking a few minutes ago with Al Sharpton, I was just watching the room because I was in awe. This whole wall was full of photographers and cameras.
MR. MCFARLANE: Once we got up here, and we started talking about this, where did they all go?
MR. MCFARLANE: Just like the names for our kids bein’ out there, we[’re] going to be out there!
[APPLAUSE. MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE SPRING TO THEIR FEET.]
MR. MCFARLANE: You know – [applause continues] – I’m here because I grew up in the heart of Englewood, in Chicago. When I was young, was stupid. I gang-banged. I went to jail. I did everything that I wasn’t supposed to do, but we had common sense because we had the big mommas behind us. And we had the nanas behind us. We had the neighbors down the street that raised us as a community, so we knew right from wrong, not to do these things.
[SOUNDS OF AGREEMENT FROM THE AUDIENCE.]
MR. MCFARLANE: When I was two years old, my dad was shot down in front of me. So, I was raised without a father. So, I’ve been there constantly for mine, constantly for mine. Yeah. Me and my baby momma – we[’re] not together, but we[’re] together right here – [touches his daughter’s photo on his chest] – and we are always clear[?].
VOICE: That’s right.
MR. MCFARLANE: So, I’mma always be there for her. I’mma always be there for my baby. I’mma always be there for my grandbaby[?]. So far, I’ve got a street sign made where she died. It’s only been a month and-a-half, and I’m not through. I need help. I don’t know – I’m — I’m like you. I threw into this. We didn’t know we was gon’ be here to do this – you know? But I’m gonna stop just in case it might be your son, or your grandson, or your daughter. I don’t want this to happen – [unintelligible]- — it’s the worst feeling in the world to identify your baby with a bullet in her head.
VOICE: Oh, my God.
MR. MCFARLANE: What am I trying to do? I’m trying to make a difference. I’m trying to make my life, my daughter’s life – see, they said give your kids to l- — the world. They didn’t say stop when they’re gone. So, I’mma give mine the world as much as I can give ’em. And when – if ain’t nobody else backin’ me, you might still see me walking around Chicago, still talking, preaching, “Janay.” “Hey, Janay. Look.” “Just another neighbor assassinated. Why?”
MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): Michael Skolnik, political director to Russell Simmons, told how just 2,000 phone calls can change legislation in Congress.
MR. MICHAEL SKOLNIK: If you look at 2009, when the climate bill was in front of the House, and there was a piece in the bill about green jobs in black communities that the Republicans wanted taken out, it only took 2,000 phone calls to get that piece put back in. That’s it: 2,000 phone calls.
So, what I want to leave here is how do we also shift the consciousness of this conversation. Right now, we’re having a conversation about the gun. That’s the national conversation. How do we limit the gun? Who can get the gun? How many bullets can you have in the gun? Where can you buy the gun? Who can buy the gun? How many guns can you have? Right? And that’s an important conversation to have.
But a deeper conversation to have is the potential shooter.
[SOUNDS OF AGREEMENT FROM THE AUDIENCE.]
MR. SKOLNIK: How does an 18-year-old young man allegedly shoot this beautiful woman’s daughter in her back? How do we get to that place? How do we look at intervention and prevention programs, as my sister Erica Ford talked about, that we know work, that cost nothing compared to what we spend on law enforcement? How do we start investing in those? How do we look at mental health and not just mental illness?
Adam Lanza, who shot up Sandy Hook Elementary School, was mentally ill. The young folks who are shooting up in our community have mental health issues. There is a difference.
VOICE: That’s right!
MR. SKOLNIK: Let us not connect the two. Let’s have a different conversation. So, I don’t want to look at four-year Band-Aids on top of bullets. I want to look at 40-year solutions so 40 years from now, we’re not at the same conference, at the 62nd Annual National Action Network Conference, talking about the same problem.
So, I think the issue in Washington – I’ll leave with this. I spoke to the Congressional Black Caucus. We know where they’re going to vote, so their power is limited. And they know that. They’re going to vote “yes” on an assault weapon ban. They’re going to vote “yes” on background checks. The bills that we care about are not going to be introduced unless we push for a conversation –
MODERATOR: That’s right. That’s right.
MR. SKOLNIK: — about the potential shooter and the potential victim. And that’s a 40-year conversation.
The President yesterday talked about a $100 million “brain initiative,” looking forward to the future. That’s an important initiative. Let’s talk about a hundred-million-dollar initiative on the 40-year solution to violence.
MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): When we come back, they are still trying to suppress our vote. Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, on what we must do to stop it.