Northeast Ohio activists, families of gun violence victims work to stop the pain

People affected by gun violence work to silence the violence.
People affected by gun violence work to silence the violence.((Source: WOIO))
Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 3:19 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 29, 2021 at 8:14 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Gun violence is an escalating crisis on the streets that has robbed families of their loved ones, including young, innocent children.

When it comes to the streets, it’s challenging to find people who want to have honest conversations about the killing culture that’s plagued our neighborhoods and spread so much misery.

Why has it gotten so bad?

Many say the violence on the streets is a symptom of much broader societal problems and communities failing to address them.

For Michelle Bell, of Cleveland, someone gunned down her son, Andre Brown, along with his close friend.

She’s endured a mother’s heartbreak that will never go away.

“I guess as a mother, my thought was I want to see him, and then I want to know what happened,” said Bell. “I wasn’t there when he took his last breath.”

According to the FBI, violent crime is up 43% from 2018 to 2020, and Cleveland’s 2021 firearm-related homicides have already topped last year.

There have been 132 gun deaths so far in 2021 compared to 118 in 2020.

Taylor Beckwith, 19, of Cleveland, is a college student who is exhausted by the constant killing.

“You would think that at my age, I shouldn’t be tired of anything, but that’s the word that comes to mind, tired,” said Beckwith.

“I’ve been hearing it my entire life, ‘Oh, this person just got shot down the street, this person just died from gun violence.’”

For Sharena Zayed, her son Amir Bradley, 15, was shot and killed for a bullet she said was meant for someone else.

“I know that it wasn’t meant for him,” she said. “It wasn’t intended for him and that there was like a conflict between some young people and then adults got involved in the very worst way.”

Amir was headed to a friend’s house.

“After he died, two weeks later, another boy got killed in that same area, and my question is how, how can this be? I know in certain other communities and certain other cities, this wouldn’t happen. If one kid got killed, there would have been increased security. Why is it in Cleveland so many things happen, and nothing is being done about it?

Support groups like “Stop the Pain” work with mothers like Zayed to trigger change and end the bloodshed.

The group’s mission is to end the gun violence that has robbed so many children and young people of their futures in Cleveland and neighboring communities.

They hope their message gains traction and gets some help from city hall.

There are others with the same mission.

Gregory Carey, of Cleveland, spent years in bank finance. He’s now the founder of Sons of Cleveland United.

“Things have come to roost because these are the product of the children from our last battle with the crack era,” said Carey. “So, these are the children. They are the manifestation, the byproduct of what happened in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Now they’re 21, 22, 23, and they didn’t just go away. They’re out here in society.”

Carey said at the root of the crime and violence: access to illegal guns.

“A gun is probably about as mobile as a used car,” said Carey. “You use it, and you get rid of it. You can probably acquire a gun as easy as buying a pack of Newports.”

Carey said many times that shooters would try and profit from guns used in crimes.

“Someone will sell you quote, unquote a dirty gun,” said Carey. “Because they want to get rid of it. So, they think if I’ve done a crime with this weapon, the further I’m away from it, the better.”

Carey said changes must start with the people.

“Anybody that’s waiting for some type man, some type of savior, and just take us to freedom or freedom of mind is asinine,” Carey said. “It’s going to have to come from the people because the problem exists with the people. So, we have to help ourselves.”

He also thinks investment on a societal level is critical in making changes.

“We need infrastructure first, and the infrastructure has fallen so far from grace,” he said. “Once we make a new floor, a new foundation, we can build upon that and correct these wrongs that we’re going through.”

Another idea: Teach children that conflict can be solved in peaceful ways.

Antoine Carrington works with the schools.

“We’re not always taught, especially as young black men, to talk out our problems, said Carrington. “We grow up really in a defend and fend for yourself type world.”

Beckwith is making a change in another way. She’s setting an example by going to college.

“There’s more to life than just guns,” Beckwith said. “I think that if they had better outlets, even people around them to look up to, a lot of this would change.”

One family believes it begins with peace among neighbors in the Black communities.

“We get mad when people do stuff when other people of other races do stuff to us,” said Sonya Boyd. “We need to get mad when we doing stuff to each other, it starts with us. We have to start being better to one another for anyone to respect us.”

Zayed may sum it up best.

“That many kids shouldn’t have to die for people to do something about it.”

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