When I was in the corporate world, I was given the role of a leader. It didn’t come naturally to me, and to be honest, I wasn’t very good at it. I understood that if the team failed, I failed. With that in mind, what the team didn’t do, I did. Within a year, I was burned out with employees who couldn’t grow or thrive because I wasn’t creating an environment for them to do so. I feel like I live in a place where leadership is as effective as I am.
2022 seems to be the year of violence for the small southern town I live in. As the world argues over inflation and gas prices, the townspeople of Kinston get shot. How many deaths does it take before reaching a breaking point? Several teenagers died because of the uncontrolled violence in the city. The deep grief felt by the townspeople is an unanswered plea from their leaders. I’m sure the weight of these dead weighs heavily on their collective spirit as they lead the city in prayer.
I stood in front of community leaders at a press conference a few weeks ago. Leaders spoke of intentional targets and called on offenders to stop the senseless violence. The police were talking about reconquering the city. They encouraged the nonviolent citizens of Kinston to “fight for it and take it back.” What exactly does this mean? Is there a citizens’ initiative where you patrol the streets alongside the police? Was there a neighborhood watch committee working with local law enforcement to create a barrier to protect said streets? How many lives are acceptable losses as we ‘take back’ the streets of Kinston? Is this really a solution that will prevent future violence?
After their conversation, a local pastor prayed for an end to the violence in the town. The direction of our leaders was to understand that the violence was targeted, that citizens must fight to take back their streets and a prayer for the city. I do not denounce any of these statements, but I denounce them for their abject ineffectiveness in solving the problem of violence. This goes for elected leaders, community leaders and business leaders who have the potential to effect change but choose not to.
How to solve the problem of violence in a city? Is it to hire more police and hope things will calm down eventually? Will police vigilance put an end to the blood in the streets? Is technology like gunshot detection technology the answer to ending the violence?
The time for blame is over. I no longer care whether it is mental health, poor education, poor parenting, or poverty that strips people of their humanity and allows them to take the lives of others. It’s time for solutions. Solutions from the leaders that directly benefit the safety of our city streets.
I live near where the shootings took place. My neighbor is leaving his home because of the violence. I have considered moving several times, but I live and work downtown. Why should I sacrifice the ease of living downtown because other people think it’s okay to shoot other people. I don’t know what the right course of action or action is to save the lives of the citizens of Kinston, but I’m pretty sure those are not thoughts and prayers. The time to act is now, before another child finds permanent residence in a coffin. It’s time for citizens to listen to their leaders and take back their city. Get involved, attend city council meetings, vote, donate time or money to causes that benefit the city. Form community action groups or community watches that guard against pervasive violence. Do something.
And do it now.