Mothers, faith leaders speak out to stem deadly shootings of young people in Minneapolis

They marched through the streets of north Minneapolis, chanting, "Be the voice" and "Not on my block."

The group Mothers Against Community Gun Violence say all too often, young people are the victims.

"We’re tired of it, we’re claiming back our communities, making it a safe place for our children,” declared Latanya Black. “It’s hard because I lost my daughter.”

She’s the mother of 23-year-old Nia "Brooklyn" Black, a highly regarded make-up artist who was found shot to death in St. Paul in June.

Black says she is on this march to honor the life of her daughter and to try to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

"It’s hard because I think about my baby and she’s not here,” Black said. “I think about all the other mothers, the stories I’ve been hearing."

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About a mile away at Shiloh Temple International Ministries, there were stories, too.

Bishop Richard Howell says he’s presided over hundreds of funerals in his sanctuary because of gun violence.

"Yes, devastating. Even as young as 2 years old, a victim of a drive-by shooting,” Howell said. “Especially our parents and loved ones who see their loved ones in a casket, for the last time. That’s a devastating sight to see.”

Minneapolis Police Department crime statistics show a troubling trend.

MPD records show between Jan. 1 and Oct. 3 of this year, there have been 61 homicides and 4,026 violent crimes.

During the same period in 2019, there were 34 homicides and 3,367 violent crimes — increases of 79.4% and 19.6%, respectively.

“I believe many of our young people today have given up,” Howell said. “There’s so much despair out there. Many feel they won’t live past a certain age, so live the as best they can, while they can. No child should have to fear they’re not going to live past 25.”

Shiloh Temple International Ministries held a gun buy-back and mental health panel on Saturday.

"The whole purpose of it is to get the guns out of the hands of youth and young adults,” says Ava Brown, one of the coordinators of the program. “We don’t want to keep coming behind and watching our children and family and loved ones die senselessly. And it is senselessly.”

The event gave up to $200 for a gun, no questions asked.

Today alone, 41 guns are now off the street.

“You bring your gun in, no reproach to you, no follow back to you,” Brown said.

Through a program called Art Is My Weapon, the guns will be rendered harmless and transformed into works of art — creation instead of destruction.

"I think it’s pretty fascinating, to see what a gun could look like on this side of life rather than on this side of death,” Howell said.

Meanwhile, the Temple is working on other programs, like crisis counseling for families and strategy sessions among youth advocates.

But Howell also has thoughts about what families can do to keep young people safe.

“Grab somebody. Show how much you care for them and lets win them apart from violence,” he said. “And if there are any issues that need to be discussed there are alternatives besides killing. There’s no excuse for violence.”

Brown says she hopes those young people, and their families, are listening.

“They need some attention. They need to be validated,” she said. “They need to know that they matter. You don’t need a gun in your hand to prove that point.”