By Nicole S. Daniel
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham Urban League (BUL) will host its first National Gun Violence Awareness Day on Saturday June 3 from 12-2 at Kelly Ingram Park.
The event will take place under the pavilion in the park and feature community leaders, organizations such as Summit Media, City Action Partners (CAP), Moms Demand Action, Birmingham Police Department, Jefferson County Resource Center, religious leaders and ministers and mothers who have lost sons or daughters to gun violence and more.
William Barnes, BUL President and CEO, said it’s important to organize around gun violence the way the community rallied around Civil Rights 60 years ago and treat the loss of lives due to crime today as a health issue.
“We have to be sure that we are doing more as a community to try to solve this [crime] issue,” Barnes said. “I believe this has to be a community effort. We keep saying it, but I don’t believe that we have organized as we may have done in the 50s and 60s, when we were organized around Civil Rights, this is just that much of an issue. It is absolutely a health crisis. It is absolutely something that our community has to come together and do the work.”
Residents cannot get used to the killings and forget the families who are grieving, Barnes said. “It’s for the community to come out and support those that certainly have lost loved ones and just letting those that have lost loved ones, this year, and in previous years, [and let them know] they’re certainly not alone. Also letting them know that we will not allow this issue, allow the community just to become numb.”
He added that a lot of small groups and city officials are putting in work to reduce crime, “but it’s not a comprehensive way. It’s not as loud as it once was about making sure that we just don’t give up,” Barnes said. “I also feel like the community is being rocked asleep, and accepting that this is this kind of the way our community is.”
Dr. Mark Anthony Haynes Executive Director of Cure Violence, Birmingham, said he hopes Saturday’s event can have an impact from an awareness perspective.
“This is a day to observe what the effects of gun violence has on families in our communities,” he said. “We want to bring awareness, we can never bring enough awareness to this issue but, we want to keep it before the public … [nearly] everyday there’s shootings and murders and we just want to let the community know that we’re coming together to least address this issue because this is real.”
Angela Walker, Executive Assistant to COO of the Birmingham Urban League. said, “We are bringing a face to the pain to the reality that a bullet is forever once it’s released. It’s not coming back. We’re just trying to reach the hearts of even those who are creating and doing the violence just to let them know that there is another way.”
Barnes said the efforts are not new for the Urban League. “This is work that we are very, very passionate about and that we continue to do. Hopefully the community is looking at the call to actions to join us or join others that are certainly still fighting and looking for solutions to save lives and our community.”
At the end of the event there will be a march in solidarity on the pavilion to the 16th Street Baptist Church steps. There will also be a balloon release for mothers who have lost a son or daughter to gun violence, falling police officers and those who have survived gun violence.
“This is not new work for the Urban League. This is work that we are very, very passionate about and that we continue to do. Hopefully the community is looking at the call to actions to join us or join others that are certainly still fighting and looking for solutions to save lives and our community.”