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Wage this fight like the next bullet has your name on it

Velma Terry speaking at an anti-gun violence training meeting in August.

Wage this fight like the next bullet has your name on it
November 03
13:30 2022

By John Railey

“The fight against gun violence must be an ongoing one,” Velma Terry told me the other day. 

Hers is a terrible wisdom. On Valentine’s Day 2021, the body of her 35-year-old son, Te’Ore, was found in Winston-Salem. He’d been fatally shot. In the year and a half since, Terry has spoken out against gun violence at numerous local rallies. Her words spill out cold and powerful, like winter raindrops from her broken heart. She has seen leaders and rank-and-file citizens listen and embrace the fight, then fall away.

But the bullets are getting closer to us all, as evidenced by the recent mass shooting in Raleigh and the shooting of one teenager by another in September 2021 at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem. We should fight gun violence like the next bullet has our name on it, as we should have been doing all along for our friends across demographic lines in the city.

This is a battle we cannot afford to lose. The human and financial costs are too high. The mass shootings, including the recent school one in St. Louis, grab the headlines. But those shootings are only a fraction of the national toll of daily gun homicides and gun violence, the one-on-one killings and maimings. There have been 27 homicides this year in Winston-Salem and numerous gun assaults. We still have two months to go in another sad year for too many families in the city, months that could leave the upcoming holidays and future ones forever torn asunder for survivors.

My colleague at Winston-Salem State University’s Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM), Associate Director Alvin Atkinson, rightly sees gun violence as an issue of economic mobility. If parents and children do not feel safe in their homes, the stress can adversely affect their ability to advance in their jobs and schools. We see that at CSEM with our partner agencies. 

Terry works at one of those agencies, the Guiding Institute for Developmental Education (GIDE), where she leads the DIVAS program, working with single mothers. Another CSEM partner, David Moore, leads Project M.O.O.R.E, which works with at-risk youth. Many of Terry and Moore’s clients are in East Winston, where much of the gun violence occurs. They tell us about clients enduring the daily toll of the violence in neighborhoods where gunshots are a far too common sound. “It’s out of control,” Moore said.

In May, after the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Winston-Salem Councilwoman Barbara Burke held a well-attended meeting at Carver High School where she sought community solutions to gun violence and collected those solutions. In August, she held a follow-up meeting at Carver where she laid out actions that had been taken. Good work had been taken, including several programs for at-risk youth, and increased law-enforcement protections.

Recently, Councilwoman Burke told me no future meetings are planned as she had accomplished what she set out to do. Her work was good, and she cannot do it alone. But the fight against gun violence must continue.

Fortunately, efforts continue. 

Susan Frye, a former Forsyth Clerk of Court who works with the sheriff’s office, said: “We are working with the youth in our county. The Community Outreach Division goes into the schools and talks about guns, drugs and violence. The sheriff has been working with ten boys at North Hills Elementary School each Monday. We work with five girls from North Hills Elementary. We are working in the Piedmont Homes community with events for the residents. We have 50 boys going to the YMCA on Waterworks Road three days a week to keep them in positive events after school. This is a joint program with the Y, the sheriff’s office, the Chris Paul Foundation, the local school system, and Don Flow.”

CSEM and its partners are also in the effort. Starting with the Winston-Salem Twin City Host Lions Club and numerous partners, Atkinson is working on the Lions Quest program, which will help at-risk youth confront many challenges, including gun violence, through social-emotional learning.

Velma Terry wants to start a support club for victims of gun violence where they can gather and fight gun violence. David Moore will soon start a series of video interviews on his Facebook site in which he interviews troubled youth, including gang members and ex-gang members and their parents, hoping comments will connect people to helpful programs and answers. “I want to share with the community that this mother is not the only mother that’s going through this with her son,” Moore said.  

“I want it to be a community thing, to get them to programs, suggestions and solutions.”

We need these initiatives and many more.

Terry said: “These are our babies, our children, our future. We have to take action.”

John Railey, raileyjb@nullgmail.com, is the writer-in-residence for CSEM, www.wssu.edu/csem.

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