We’re shrugging off persistent and deadly violence in Liberty City and other working-class and low-income communities as if those innocent victims were falling down dead in a foreign country — “over there.”
They’re not. This is happening a few blocks away from one school or another. It’s happening around the corner from a church and down the street from a mom-and-pop. It’s happening three minutes west of where hipsters play.
One of the latest atrocities occurred last week at a club on Northwest Seventh Avenue in Liberty City. The Spot, as it’s named, sits just north of Miami Dade College’s Entrepreneurial Center. Early Sunday morning, as young people — some ridiculously young to be hanging out at this venue — partied, a gunman or gunmen sprayed the club with perhaps 100 rounds. Fifteen people were injured, one critically. Another is just 11 years old.
And no one’s talking, though one or more victims likely knows the who and the why.
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In June, one of the worst mass shootings in the city in decades took place near the Liberty Square public housing project. Two men emerged from an SUV at an apartment complex on Northwest 15 Avenue and 65th Street, fired with automatic weapons into a group of friends, killing two of them and injuring seven others.
And, to Hermana Richardson’s frustration, nobody’s talking.
Her son, Kevin, was one of the two young men killed. His best friend, Nakeil Jackson, was the other. As much as Ms. Richardson wants the police to push and push and push until they find the killers, she wants something else: She wants the people closest to her — neighbors, friends, kids on the block — to tell police what they know, because she’s convinced to her core that even the survivors know who shot them.
When interviewed by WLRN-Miami Herald News reporter Nadege Green — who produced a radio series called Aftermath: Beyond the Bullets in Liberty City — Ms. Richardson made clear that the debilitating silence of the people who held her in their embrace when Kevin died is most incomprehensible.
It’s a scary thing to “snitch,” because the bad guys have guns, but these gangs also are making life in these neighborhoods a living hell.
This is not a Liberty City problem, it’s a challenge that Miamians within and outside of that community must accept. Commission districts are no excuse for four of five city commissioners to say “not my problem,” for a mayor not to hold a press conference expressing resolve.
Who’s trying to make a difference? Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s office has a witness-protection program, underfunded, sadly, but effective, she says.
Who else? The police officers who, many residents told WLRN, consistently get out of their cruisers and walk the neighborhood and talk to them with respect. These officers are working to build a fractured trust, and there are far too few of them.
People who want to do more than shake their heads and lament the violence can listen to what residents have to say about the challenges — and the successes — of Liberty City. Nadege Green will host Aftermath: A Community Conversation in Liberty City, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at Miami Northwestern Senior High School, 1100 NW 71st St.
There ought to be some familiar faces there, especially those of elected officials, school leaders and law enforcement chiefs. Any less is just shrugging it off.