Rev. Darryl Williams On Milwaukee Gun Violence

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Rev. Darryl Williams On Milwaukee Gun Violence

Premiere Date: 
June 20, 2014

The pastor hosted a town hall meeting on gun violence at St. Mark Church on Thursday.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Milwaukeeans will be looking for answers from politicians on how to curb gun violence in their city. Summer officially begins tomorrow and already things are heating up. According to Milwaukee police, so far this year there have been a total of 31 homicides and 227 non-fatal shootings. That includes 42 nonfatal shootings so far in June, up from 26 at this point last year. The Reverend Darryl Williams hosted a town hall meeting on gun violence last night at his church in Milwaukee. He's the pastor at St. Mark AME Church. Reverand, thanks very much for being here.

Darryl Williams:

You're welcome.

Frederica Freyberg:

What did you learn from your town hall meeting on this violence last night?

Darryl Williams:

Well, I learned that the citizens are fed up with what they see and what they are experiencing, and they came out, I felt, in good numbers to problem-solve. That was the first phase of what we're attempting to do, is to problem-solve. And so we heard just a whole range of problems that's going on in the various neighborhoods of the city. And then we ended it with some solutions that we hope that we can put into effect.

Frederica Freyberg:

So in terms of the problem-solving and looking at the issue, are people able to answer the question of why people are shooting each other?  

Darryl Williams:

Well, I think the main reason is a sense of hopelessness, and the hopelessness is a result of the-- basically, the lack of jobs. So when people don't have the opportunity to work, when they don't have an opportunity to take care of their families, they result to destructive kind of behavior and that's what we're seeing.

Frederica Freyberg:

Also, it seems to me that at this moment in time this problem is kind of multi-generational. There's been an issue with violence in the city of Milwaukee now really for decades. Is that something that just makes it even worse?

Darryl Williams:

Yeah, because not only young people are out of work. You have older people that are out of work. And so hopelessness has no respect of persons. It affects all ages and both sexes. And so what we're seeing is that-- Just that. It's affecting everyone and everyone is resulting to the kind of destructive behavior that I described earlier.

Frederica Freyberg:

I know that the mayor of Milwaukee says that more police will be hitting the streets. He set up this gun hotline and continues to call for tougher gun laws. What's your reaction to his response to this issue?

Darryl Williams:

Well, I think that's a start, but, you know, only dealing with the symptoms when you do those kind of things. I think we need to get at the root level, and the root level is to deal with the hopelessness that exists in our community. It's a spiritual problem. It's a spiritual problem. And so we need to, as I said, get at the root, and that root is giving people sense of purpose for their lives. I'm sitting at Marquette University now. These young people have a sense of purpose. They probably have five, ten-year plans, even beyond that for their lives. The people that we're talking about who are in these neighborhoods are impoverished and they probably don't know what they will be doing with their lives in the next five to ten years, maybe even next year.

Frederica Freyberg:

So how do you kind of help instill that sense of purpose and try to start to erase that hopelessness? What do you do?

Darryl Williams:

Okay. Well, one, I think you have to meet them where they are. Churches, community leaders, we need to leave the buildings where we do our business and go out and meet these young people, meet these people where they are. That's the first thing. And when we do that, they would feel like people care. So they really need to feel like people care. And I'm not an expert in creating jobs, but we have to have some strategy that's going to bring some more opportunities in the Milwaukee community where people can take care of their families.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you hear at these kinds of meetings like the one you held last night from the-- potentially the young people on the streets that are engaging in this kind of violence because they just don't have any, as you say, sense of purpose, and they're hopeless? Do you hear from them or do you mostly hear from people like yourself or elders or other people who have seen a different kind of way of being? I'm just wondering whether or not you're getting any kind of buy-in from the generation that's engaged in this kind of violence.  

Darryl Williams:

Well, I think we hearing from people like myself, and I think that's part of the problem. When we got to the solution part of our meeting on yesterday, there was a young man who did take the mic and say that one of the solutions is that we need to get some of these young people who are there that we're talking about, and we need to bring them to these meetings and hear from them. We didn't develop a way to do that, but I think that young man was right on point. We need to bring these people to these kind of meetings or maybe go where they are, talk to them and hear from them, and after talking and hearing from them, then we can implement some of the things that they think are core issues.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, as you well know, it's an election year. What would you call on a governor to do to help stem this violence in Milwaukee?  

Darryl Williams:

Well, I keep going back to the job issue. I think that when people have an opportunity to take care of their families, when people have an opportunity to earn an honest day's living, they don't-- they feel-- At that point they don't feel like they have to do drugs to earn a living. They don't have to engage in prostitution. They don't have to rob people. And so the answer is jobs, jobs, jobs. And so I would encourage the governor to create jobs and then create a transit line where individuals that we're talking about can get to these jobs.

Darryl Williams:

All right. Reverend Darryl Williams, thanks very much for joining us on this important issue.

Darryl Williams:

Thank you.   


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