July 29, 2014

NNO Column

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

In April of 1963, a number of brave women and men descended on Birmingham, Alabama. Inspired by the non-violent tactics of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi these trailblazers sought to usher in an era of tolerance and co-existence, with the immediate goals of bringing an end to the practices of segregation and to discrimination against African Americans in the workforce. While their goals were eventually met, their resolve was tested. Protestors were jailed, sprayed with high pressure water hoses and attacked by dogs. In May of that year, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech at St. Luke’s Baptist Church, in which he said, “You know there are approximately 2,500 people in jail right now. Now let me say this. The thing that we are challenged to do is to keep this movement moving. There is power in unity and there is power in numbers.”

While we as a nation and as a city still fight for true equality among all peoples, we are also battling number of other issues. Far too many of us cannot provide for ourselves or our families due to rampant joblessness.  Our children are subject to an education system that doesn’t give them the skills or knowledge necessary to succeed.  Violent crime such as homicide, spousal abuse, and senseless shootings occur much too frequently.  We cannot stand by and watch as these issues continue to eat away at our neighborhoods and communities.  

Our country affords us many courses of action to deal with these issues; however I would argue that there is none better than that proposed by Dr. King in May of 1963. Indeed, there is power in numbers. When we work together, as a country, as a state or as a community, we are unstoppable. That is why I am so proud to have the opportunity to take part in the 30th annual National Night Out.

Established by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), a non-profit organization that supports the promotion of crime prevention through programs like neighborhood watch groups and civic groups, National Night Out is “America’s Night Out Against Crime.” Every year since 1984, communities across the nation come together over activities such as rallies, block parties, cookouts, parades, seminars and the like and participate in National Night Out.

These communities aim to heighten crime prevention awareness, generate support for and participation in local anti-crime programs, and strengthen both neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships.  It is the day where we as a country take to the streets and proudly and publicly declare to criminals “you are not a welcome part of our society!”

However, it is vital that we do not allow these efforts to be forgotten after this one night.  The issues plaguing our society will not and cannot be fixed in a single day.  National Night Out stands as a reminder of the progress we have made and acts as the motivation for all the hard work that still needs to be done to improve the health and safety of neighborhoods around the country.

Community plays a leading role in determining our sense of the world and our individual place in it.  The communities we are a part of are highly influential in shaping the people we will one day become.  It is through the kindness and support of our friends and neighbors that we come to appreciate and understand the responsibility we have to each other.  It is our civic duty to ensure that our communities are healthy and our citizens are safe.  The communal wellbeing that we have been working so hard to achieve begins at the individual level.  Through simple acts of compassion towards each other, we can not only foster a stronger sense of community but also present a united front, fighting back against the crime and suffering that so often destroys our collective sense of security. 

This coming August 5th from 5 PM to 9 PM, we as a community will gather at the Lincoln Park Pavilion and Water Park (1000 West Hampton Avenue, Milwaukee WI 53209) and stand up to those criminals determined to hold us back. We will enjoy music, games, food, a movie and more and be joined by groups that aim to better our community.  We are honored to be joined by our esteemed partners and sponsors including Alderman Hamilton and Supervisor Lipscomb, the PKSD Law Firm, CYD, Milwaukee Police Department, Job Corp, the Black Health Coalition, the Boys and Girls Club, and many, many more, all offering valuable resources and services to all those in attendance. 

Just as Dr. King and the civil rights movement fought inequality with numbers, I believe that we can prevent crime through numbers. It is my sincere hope that in standing up to crime we can set a precedent for ourselves, our neighbors and our children to lead honest and successful lives. I’ll see you on August 5th when, in the words of the Executive Director of NATW Matt Peskin, we “give crime a going away party!”

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