Black Leaders Not Problem, Media Sensationalism Is

On Dec. 19, 2013, Rev. Al Sharpton gathered in Chicago with 12 other leaders to come up with solutions to curb so-called Black-on-Black crime.

Approximately 300 people attended the town hall meeting in Chicago’s Hyde Park, which came on the heels of almost 400 Black men being murdered that year, compared to 500 total homicides in 2012.

At the meeting, leaders focused on increased job opportunities as the remedy to decrease Black-on-Black crime.

Despite Sharpton’s efforts, very little information about such town hall meetings are available online with the exception of a few publications like The Root.

According to The Root, “Sharpton took up residence on the West Side (of Chicago) in November (2013) and began hosting town halls as a part of an effort to find solutions to the city’s outsize homicide rate among young Black males.”

The problem is not that leaders like Sharpton do not focus their attention on Black-on-Black crime, it is that the media chooses to focus on their efforts to fight racism and injustice because polarizing issues like racism, religion and politics are always more controversial, which leads to more interest and better ratings.

Unfortunately, citizens of Chicago like journalist Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune, who happens to be White, have had a first row seat as the amount of Black male bodies have piled up as a result of intra-racial violence.

Unlike many however, Chapman has also had a first row seat to all of the community outreach programs led by Black leaders to curb the violence and provide jobs for those fighting for survival in some of the meanest ghettoes in the country.

In an Aug. 21 article in the Chicago Tribune, he wrote about Sharpton’s town hall meetings in November 2013.  

Chapman wrote about First Lady Michelle Obama attending the funeral of 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton, allegedly murdered by a Black gang member.

Furthermore, the first lady visited a nearly all-Black Chicago high school for a candid conversation on violence.

According to the Chicago Tribune, “In choosing Harper High School for the visit, the White House noted that 29 current or former students there had been shot in the last year, eight of them fatally.”

Chapman believes that not only are Black leaders being ignored for their work to stop Black-on-Black crime, the fact that Black-on-Black crime has decreased drastically over the past two decades is also being ignored.

He wrote, “It’s no secret that rates of violent crime are far higher among Blacks than Whites.  What is generally overlooked is that these rates have dropped sharply over the past two decades.  The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice reports that violent crime by young Blacks has plunged 60 percent.

“In 1995, the FBI reports, 9,074 Blacks were arrested for homicide.  In 2012, the number was 4,023—a decline of 54 percent.  But conservatives don’t labor endlessly to publicize that trend.”

The problem is the media sensationalizing the controversial to get more website views, more eyeballs on the television set and more newspapers purchased.

For’s part in that, I apologize.  

If mainstream media will not publicize the positive about our community and its leaders, then the Black press should definitely take the lead and publicize our efforts to make our community better. should have informed its readers about activist Shane Johnson, who in 2007 organized a protest against the Black perpetrators who beat and raped a 35-year-old Haitian woman and then forced her to perform oral sex on her 12-year-old son.

Johnson organized this protest when many in the media were focused on the Jena 6 and the Duke lacrosse rape case. should constantly remind its readers about the Million Man March in 1995, organized by leaders like Minister Louis Farrakhan, in which a million Black men gathered in the nation’s capitol in order to take responsibility for the conditions in the Black community and to find solutions to the problem.

Former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke stated at the march, “Let our choices be for life, for protecting women, our children, keeping our brothers free of drugs, free of crime.”

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, approximately 1.7 million Black men registered to vote after the march.

Furthermore, should constantly remind its readers that Black entertainers have a history of making songs that urge their brothers and sisters to stop Black-on-Black crime.

Songs like “Self-Destruction” by the Stop the Violence Movement, “We’re All in the Same Gang” by The West Coast Rap All-Stars and “U Will Know” by Black Men United raised money to stop crime in the Black community.

Chapman stated that “Black leaders can walk and chew gum at the same time” as demonstrated by their commitment to stop Black-on-Black crime and racial injustice.  It is time for the press, including, to demonstrate that we can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time as well, and give proper coverage to all of the leaders who are trying to clean up their own house before cleaning up someone else’s. 

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