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After City’s ‘Toll of Violence’ in 2022, Mayor Woodfin, Area Clergy Urge Peace

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In a 17-minute video posted online, a somber Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said gun violence is felt most in the communities where people live and have lost people. (YouTube screengrab)

By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

More than a dozen pastors from across the Birmingham metro area on Friday joined Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and other city leaders to remember those killed by gun violence in 2022.

In a 17-minute video posted online, Woodfin said gun violence is felt most in the communities where people are lost.

“Though this problem is not unique to Birmingham, the pain cuts deeper when it’s our communities, when it’s our friends, our families, our children, who grapple with loss that comes from senseless violence—violence that especially has taken an immeasurable toll among the Black men in our city,” Woodfin said.

The mayor said it’s important that the city’s homicide victims “not be turned into empty statistics or a simple number.”

“They were mothers and fathers. They were brothers and sisters, cousins, coworkers, colleagues and friends. They are Birmingham. Today we say their names to remember them and their legacies. Let these names be a reminder of the toll of violence. We cannot turn a blind eye to the pain left behind in their absence,” Woodfin said.

“Remember their names, and please, please help us find peace,” he added.

In the video, each of the member of the clergy, took turns, for about 10 minutes, reading victims’ names of the 134 homicides recognized by Birmingham Police Department in the city this year.

Last week, Birmingham recorded a grim milestone with its 141st homicide, the highest in the city in decades, according to AL.com, which also counts justifiable homicides which aren’t deemed criminal.

The highest number of homicides recorded in recent memory was 141 in 1991. The city’s all-time annual record for homicides was set in 1933 recorded when Birmingham had 148 slayings.

Among the 15 local clergy in the video were Dr. Thomas Beavers, Pastor of New Rising Star church, Pastor Mike McClure Sr. of Revelation Church Ministries and Rev. Thomas Wilder of Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville.

Friday’s memorial was part of the Inaugural Day of Remembrance for Gun-Related Homicide Victims organized by the national Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Similar memorials were held throughout the country in cities like Durham, NC and New York City.

In the video, each of the member of the clergy, took turns, for about 10 minutes, reading victims’ names of the 134 homicides recognized by Birmingham Police Department in the city this year.

“I really believe with all of my heart that we must begin to think more highly of ourselves and of other people, to the point to where we value all of life,” said Beavers. “I believe that thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, habits become character, character becomes our destiny, but it all starts in how we think.”

Before starting with names of victims aged 18 and younger, McClure said the day was a “somber reminder” of the young people killed in Birmingham this year.

“These boys and girls, who were never able to reach their potential to grow into thriving men and women, our hearts break for them. In their memory, we remain steadfast in our resolve to protect the young people of our city. Today, we wrap our arms around grieving families and always remember the precious names of our children 18 years old and younger,” McClure said.

The full list of clergy present in the video were:

Beavers; McClure Sr., Wilder; Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Brooks, Greater St. John Baptist Church; Rev. Dr. John L. Cantelow III, Sixth Avenue Baptist Church; Pastor Kris Erkin, The Movement Fellowship Church;  Pastor Jonathan Hatten, Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church of North Pratt; Pastor Lawrence Jackson, Greater Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Center Point; Bishop Jim Lowe, Guiding Light Church; Destiny Manifest, Divine Destiny International;

Rev. Dr. Pervis L. Mann, First Baptist Church of Mason City; Minister James Muhammad, Muhammad Mosque #69; Rev. Nicole Newton, First Presbyterian Church;  Rev. Dollie Howell Pankey, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, 5th District;  Cantor Robby Wittner, Temple Emanu-El.

Also, City Councilor LaTonya Tate, chair of the council’s Public Safety committee, and Terry Drake, faith-based liaison in the city’s office of Social Justice and Racial Equity, were present.

Visit https://birminghamal.gov/peace for information and resources to decrease or save someone from violence.