By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
A Birmingham 14-year-old was shot and killed last week and her mother also critically injured from bullet wounds in the incident.
The girl, Moriah Quib-Marquez, a student at Ossie Ware Mitchell Middle School in Birmingham’s South East Lake neighborhood, was a passenger in an SUV found crashed into a utility pole at the scene near the corner of 80th St. and Fifth Ave. North.
At least 20 shots were fired and a nearby resident, said he woke up to the gunfire.
Marquez’s death marked the 129th homicide in Birmingham this year. Moriah is one of 16 people ages 18 and under shot to death so far this year in the city, according to AL.com.
Two recent reports from WBHM 90.3 FM looked at the way that parents and teenagers in Birmingham have responded to homicides in 2022, which are nearing a historic level. The highest number in recent memory was 141 in 1991, according to AL.com’s Carol Robinson.
One parent, Shunda Milhouse, told the story of how her 15-year-old daughter April was shot and killed 20 years ago. Milhouse said she let April accompany an older sister on a Senior Skip Day, and while the teenagers were out, an older man hit on April, but April rejected.
“So she walked away and somehow his ego got bruised, and when she declined to speak with him, he went to the trunk of his car and he got out a gun and he just started shooting in the park and he shot my baby in her back,” Milhouse told WBHM.
Milhouse said tragedies like hers could happen to anyone. “A lot of parents say, ‘not my child. This wouldn’t happen in my home,’ but little do they know guns are being hidden right there in your home,” Milhouse told WBHM.
In 2006, Milhouse founded the April Lynn Jamerson Foundation, named in memory of her daughter, to help improve kids’ social skills.
While Black children make up 14% of the nation’s youth population, they accounted for 46% of youth firearm deaths in 2021, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study cited by WBHM.
Two Carver High School students have been shot and killed this year, Javarius “Deno” Reid and Dwaine Thomas, according to WBHM.
Gustavo Garcia Perez, a senior at Carver, said his classmates’ sudden absences are devastating for students.
“One day the classmate is right there sitting next to you and then the other day he’s gone and you don’t see him no more, so it’s just pretty sad and heartbreaking,” Perez told WBHM.
Jacob Woods, a sophomore at Carver, said the level of violence in the community has led him to be hyper-vigilant of his surroundings.
“You just looking around, peeping your area, watching. Just being on edge, keeping your eyes glued to everybody. Making sure [there] ain’t nothing. And if you see a little stuff pop out, you like, ‘yeah, it’s time to go.’ It’s a little stressful, but I done got so used to it,” Woods told WBHM, which shared recommendations from parents and students how communities should combat the high levels of violence.
To stem the tide of violence, Milhouse said neighbors need to care for their own again.
“We need that village back. We need to be more like when our grandparents were sitting on the front porch and they knew what was going on in the neighborhood. People got involved,” Millhouse told WBHM.
Ariyan Riggs, junior at Carver, said violence at school often comes from strife at home and that parents should really talk to their children.
“Parents, it’s important that you have conversations with your kids, not just about grades [or] getting the house clean. Ask them questions like ‘How is your day going?’ Know where your child is mentally. Know where your child is emotionally. Even if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you like that,” Riggs told WBHM.
Last week, the Birmingham Urban League completed a tour to promote non-violence, which ran for about a month through all seven Birmingham City Schools public high schools. The tour, which began at Carver on Oct. 12, seems to have been effective at reducing conflict in the school, students told WBHM.
Woods said it’s important that children hear from adults who care.
“Adults that play some type of role in a child’s life that has an influence on them should kind of talk to them about it. They say knowledge is power and the more we inform our generation, the more we know and the more we can avoid those types of situations,” Woods said.
Providing A Path
Also last week, Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr, U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona and Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson spoke at the Rotary Club of Birmingham on a panel about gun violence as a public health crisis, according to WBRC Fox 6.
Escalona said among the small percent of the population in Jefferson County that actually commits violent crimes, domestic violence is a good indicator.
“What we know is that if you are violent in the home, you will be violent in the community. We put those people in federal prison because we know that makes communities safer,” Escalona said, according to WBRC.
Carr said while prosecuting violent crime offenders is important, many people charged with violent crimes re-enter society at some point. Providing a path for those people outside of crime is necessary, he said.
“That’s why we thought about doing the Second Chance Job Fair because people are going to come out of prison and if they get hope, they get livable wage jobs then what happens is they become your credible messengers in the community— to try to stop these young people from committing an act that’s going to change their lives,” Carr said.
Wilson pointed to the hospital-linked violence intervention program, which he said will begin within the next few months. The program seeks to provide aid to surviving victims of gun violence in the hospital, to hopefully get them out of dangerous situations.
“The people that have survived a gunshot wound over the next five years, they have a 40% chance of being reinjured, and a 20% chance of being dead at the end of five years. So, there’s a big opportunity here,” Wilson said.
Updated on 11/21/2022 at 10:41 a.m. to correct the title to show that the 16 killed so far this year were not all teens, some were younger.
Updated on 11/22/22 at 11:42 a.m. to include links to reporting by WBMH and WBRC.