By Hollis Wormsby
Early Tuesday morning two more men were senselessly shot in the Belview Heights section of the Ensley community. As of this writing I have not discovered much about who the men were or what the circumstances were that claimed their lives, but at this point it appears to be another case of opportunistic violence perpetrated against folks trying to work hard to provide for their family.
What has been revealed as of this writing is that a 46-year old man and his 26-year old son in law had been working on a home in the Belview Heights section of Ensley for the past week. Neighbors noted that the two men always came to work at the home during the night and in most cases would work through the night and leave early morning. The home did not yet have power, so the men were using a generator to supply power as they worked. When you read between the lines it sounds like two men who were working day jobs and then working through the night to try and get a home ready for their family. Sometime early Tuesday morning it appears that one or more individuals decided to rob these hard-working men, and one is now dead and as of this writing the other is fighting for his life.
Just a couple of weeks ago, another gentlemen was senselessly gunned down in the same neighborhood. Ricky Parker was a retired ATT employee who served as an administrator at a local church and according to many people I have spoken to who new him personally was a good man who had given much to his community. Grainy footage taken from a community center camera shows a young Black male leaving Parker’s car in the parking lot of nearby community center only moments after Parker’s death.
Death like these highlight the ongoing frustration of living and working in the Ensley community. The hard, cold reality is that we have valueless predators that roam our community all day every day, looking for their next high and their next victim. Many choose to live in Birmingham because they feel the City tolerates the kind of behavior that makes communities like Ensley so dangerous. I have heard City leaders at various times talk about the perception of danger being more real than the actual danger. Deaths like these, beg to differ with that opinion.
I live in the Bush Hills Ensley community. Friends and associates asked me for years why I didn’t move out, and at the time I didn’t because I believed that we shouldn’t just run from the problem, we should face it and defeat it. Today with the decline in property values driven in large part by our failure to get violent behavior under control, I can’t sell my house for enough to pay off the mortgage, so I am in under water hell in the Ensley community now and have no choice but to try and be a part of the solution.
The problem is bad. When I leave my house at night or early morning to let my puppy do his business, I put a pistol in my pocket. If a car slows down while we are out I grip the pistol and prepare myself to pull it and at least get off a decent shot, if this my morning or night to have to confront one of the predators. It is no way to live and we all deserve better.
I am going to say it again, much of this comes back to out attitude toward crime and bail. Many will tell you that the bail schedule leaves no choice but to offer the $30,000 to $60,000 bonds for murder and other violent crimes that are so common in this community. But they cannot then explain why bail for heroine sales or meth sales will run in the half million to million-dollar range. A half million-dollars is well above the bail standard for drug trafficking, but Judges make the statement on a regular basis that heroine and meth are destroying the community and impose bail outside of the bail schedule for these crimes. I know that heroine is horrible drug, and unfortunately, we are also starting to see heroine addicts, including an increasing number of Caucasian female heroine addicts in our community as well, but I will say that in the City of Birmingham, heroine is not causing more destruction than ongoing out of control youth violence. Our Judges, our Prosecutors and our Police force have got to come together on this issue and find a way to quit letting violent offenders free to roam the streets of the City and continue their reign of terror. Being a lifetime criminal is not a civil right. Giving lifetime criminals multiple opportunities to continue the same pattern of activity is not a civil right. The civil right we need to be protecting is the right of hard working, tax paying citizens to live in safety and without fear in our neighborhood. The civil right we need is for men like the ones who were senselessly gunned down on Tuesday morning, to have the right to work hard to better than families without becoming Birmingham’s latest crime statistic. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
(Hollis Wormsby has served as a featured columnist for the Birmingham Times for more than 28 years. He is the former host of Talkback on 98.7 KISS FM and of Real Talk on WAGG AM. If you would like to comment on this column you can go to Facebook.com/holliswormsby or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)