It’s Time to Roll Up Our Sleeves

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Dionay Smith. Credit: Carl Snowden's Facebook page

It led the six o’clock news: Dionay Smith, 24, the brother of Baltimore City Police Department spokesperson Lt. J.T. Smith, 40, had become the 173rd person murdered in Baltimore City this year.

Lt. Smith, who was formerly with the Anne Arundel County Police Department, broke down in tears yesterday as he talked about the senseless murder of his youngest brother Dionay.

Yesterday’s news, with its ironic twist, sent home the message loud and clear that violence can and has been visited on prominent citizens as well. Congressman Elijah Cummings, Warren Brown, the Dawson family and yes, the Freddie Gray family, all have seen and felt the scourge of violence first-hand. Whenever a prominent citizen is murdered in the city, you can bet the full resources of the police department will be brought to bear to find the perpetrator.

Yet, I hope that the tragic death of Dionay Smith may cause another more lasting and systemic change. I hope that there is an effort to examine the root causes of the problems of Baltimore City, Chicago, Annapolis and other cities; problems that do not go away with the arrest of the assailant in a heinous crime. Poverty, deteriorating neighborhoods, lack of jobs and affordable housing, and lack of hope are the real causes of the escalating violence in inner cities.

A friend of mine said she was at the Baltimore Inner Harbor on Tuesday for the Fireworks and witnessed first-hand young people out of control, using vulgar language and showing an utter disregard for others. I have long concluded that there are some things that the government can not, will not, and should not do for us. One of those things is raising our children; that is our responsibility. It is a responsibility that recognizes that all of us must roll up our sleeves and get to work. Like thousands of others, I extend my condolences to Lt. Smith and his family during his bereavement. Yet I realize that after the funeral, after the righteous editorials and condemnation, there is still work to be done.

Several years ago, my nephew was shot in the back of the head on the campus of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland . His mother (my sister) never fully recovered from his murder. She died a few years later of a broken heart. Broken communities result in many funerals. While the numbers continue to grow, we must be committed to do more than just talking.

On Tuesday, July 11th, 6pm, at the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center, 1101 Smithville Street, Annapolis, Maryland, we will be discussing policing, violence and what people can do to prevent these senseless murders. I hope that some of the readers of this post will be able to join us.

Dionay Smith was a good brother. Full of life and potential. He now belongs to the angels and the ages. May his death be our clarion call to take back our communities and to fight for a social justice agenda that will insure we have more victories than funerals.

R.I.P Dionay Smith. A Luta Continua!

Carl Snowden is a political and civil rights leader in Annapolis.

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