Crime and violence in inner city Missouri communities is well documented in the summer of 2017. During a three day stretch in early June, 11 murders occurred in St. Louis, including two children aged seven and 13.
70 homicides thus far in Kansas City this year have set a pace to top last year’s total of 130, which was the city’s highest number of killings since 2008.
On June 9th, Democratic state Representative Brandon Ellington released a public statement titled “I haven’t done enough and we need to do more”.
In it, he asked for help in improving conditions in his district while admitting actions he’s taken have fallen short. He identified several issues that needed to be solved, including unemployment, high murder rates, lack of social concern and education.
Ellington thinks residents need to supply a “social element” to push for change in order to raise living standards in inner city neighborhoods.
“As a community we can demand that our tax dollars are being utilized to insure that our streets are just as clean” said Ellington. “And we can also have that social element, where if you walk down the street and I see you break the glass of a bottle, I’m like ‘No, you’ve got to pick that glass up. It’s not going to remain there’”.
With violence a near constant presence while growing up, Ellington faced up to the need for social responsibility within communities after wondering how long he was going to live.
“I didn’t think I’d live to be 25. So when I hit 25, it was a whole different reality, like ‘You’re 25. What are you going to do? So the hopelessness and despair and all of those things are something that’s socially engineered. And then it’s perpetuated by a lack of a social contract”
Ellington also mentioned in his early June statement that he’d approached individuals running a drug house next door to his Kansas City office and told them they couldn’t continue to operate there. He says the move showed neighbors that they didn’t have to live in fear of their surroundings.
“You don’t go to work, buy a house, and then have to lock yourself indoors because you’re afraid of your neighbors. No. That’s socially unacceptable. What’s socially acceptable is you buy a house, and you should feel comfortable in your area.”
The people selling drugs have since moved out of the adjacent home. In the days that followed, Representative Ellington held conversations with members of the Kansas City Police in which the subject of unemployment was continually raised as a root problem in his district.
He told Missourinet that he’ll be sponsoring a job fair in the community along with the police department that’ll take place in September.
“The backdrop of the job fair will be companies, and things of that nature, that hire people with felonies. So that’s addressing one of immediate issues when it comes to lack of access to jobs, (companies) that hire people with felonies.”
Ellington released another statement in late June to announce more events he’s hosting under the banner of the ‘No More Excuses Coalition’.
After holding an initial meeting, he said there would be a gathering in late July called the “Enough is Enough Violence Awareness Prevention Symposium”. Ellington says he had to make a choice while growing up in an environment where drive-by shootings were a normal occurrence.
“I can either live in fear of my community and isolate myself, or I can take that same exposure to danger and fight to get rid of it. And since I’m being exposed to danger in both elements, I’d rather live and fight it than hide and suffer from it.”
Other events Ellington has scheduled during the year include a Domestic Violence Awareness & Healthcare Fair and a Poets for Peace gathering.
Through all of it, he’s hoping to establish a community dialogue and bring unity by connecting with residents who are committed to improving their surroundings.
“Basically, what we want to do is work with as many people as we can, get as many people that are socially conscious and aware, and create that network.”