MILWAUKEE — For another week in the City of Milwaukee, families will be saying goodbye forever to a child.
The most recent victim of violence is Jajuan Taylor, 16, who police say was involved in a robbery gone wrong. Taylor is the 16th person under the age of 18 killed in Milwaukee this year. It’s the most through Aug. 13 in any year since at least 2017. It also puts the City of Milwaukee on track to shatter the record of shootings where youths survive with 87 victims so far this year, 20 more than last year’s record-setting 67.
If statistics follow the trend it’s on right now, about 26 kids will be killed this year and 141 will survive shootings. That is more than 160 families who will have the spotlight on their grief as they traverse one of the most difficult mourning periods any family can go through.
“Too many of our kids are dying,” Jasmond Clemons told TMJ4 after her son, 16-year-old J’Shyne Clemons-Madison was killed near 47th & Burleigh on July 3. “We as parents have to get involved in some type of way. Why is all these young kids out here with guns? Put the guns down.”
“I went to bed seeing my son,” Tiera Carter recalled about the last time she saw her son, Davion Patterson, on March 20. “To wake up, never to see him again. One act can ruin a lot of lives.”
The TMJ4 archives are filled with interview after interview of grieving parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Each doing something they’d never expect in their lives.
“I’m burying my baby because a person ended up with a gun who probably shouldn’t have had it,” Celeste Wilson said during a vigil for her 12-year-old daughter, Olivia Grace Schultz on Oct. 11, 2022.
“What they took from us is a very much loved 16-year-old,”Jackyha Collins said about her nephew, Chevaz Collins Jr. on Dec. 5, 2022.
“You don’t want to feel what we’re feeling,” Monica Collins said of her grandson. “We empty as hell. Don’t nobody even know.”
Largely in the City of Milwaukee, if someone under 18 is shot or killed, they will be African American. According to Milwaukee Police data, since 2017, 90.3 percent of homicide victims under 18 years old are African American. It’s almost the same breakdown for youth who survive shootings during that same time frame; 90.4 percent of non-fatal shooting youth victims were Black.
“Our youth today are stressed,” Dennis Walton, community organizer said. “They’re under a lot of pressure. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be flooding unlimited resources into this community to address their issues.”
Walton spoke to TMJ4 News in July about this same topic inside a building near 47th and Fond du Lac where he hopes to make change.
He and a partner are hoping to open Something Good Juice Lounge in the next couple of months. It’ll be a place to provide healthy food and beverages to kids but the space will be a safe haven to keep kids out of trouble. It was here that he addressed the ongoing concerns he has about the rising number of tragedies involving kids.
“We see Black children dying every single day,” Walton said. “There is no sense of urgency to stop the problem or prevent that from happening.”
Just over a week later, Walton’s words reached the ears of Vice President Kamala Harris during an interview with Charles Benson.
“Is there a sense of urgency in the Biden-Harris Administration and what would you say to this community leader to give him hope?” Benson asked.
“Let me first acknowledge that it is tragic that in America, the leading cause of death of our children is gun violence,” Harris said. “The leading cause. Not a health issue. Gun violence is the leading cause of death of America’s children. What we need, is Congress to actually pass reasonable gun safety laws. Background checks, red flag laws, and what we need to do around assault weapons.”
“I think what she said was some [expletive],” Walton said. “It was straight BS. You mean to tell me, we got to wait for Congress? The next mother whose child may be the next child that’s going to be dead, she has to wait for Congress to pass a background law? An anti-assault rifle law? In order to save her child?”
Walton says, while he was proud to see his comments reach the Vice President’s ears, his vote for 2024 is wide open, especially after hearing her response. He says he feels the Black community has been failed by Democratic leadership.
“I’m tired of Black-faced leadership,” Walton said. “Black faces pretending like they’re leaders but they’re not standing up for the Black community. They’re not fighting for the salvation or for the soul or the right for Black people to live in a comfortable, safe environment. She’s not the only one responsible. We’re all responsible, parents, mothers, and the fathers.”
Last year, President Biden signed the first sweeping bipartisan legislation in 30 years to reduce gun violence, enhancing background checks and providing states with grants for red flag laws, which allows families to ask courts to remove guns from people deemed a risk to themselves or others. On a state level, Governor Tony Evers has called for special sessions to address gun violence in the past, but Republican lawmakers declined to discuss it.
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