As he does each July, Darvio Morrow went to East Cleveland Saturday afternoon to participate in a dedication ceremony for his friend, Shirellda Terry, and two other women who were brutally murdered by Michael Madison in the poverty-stricken suburb over a nine-month period in 2012 and 2013.
Morrow, a Cleveland native and a local conservative talk show host, often addresses issues of race, the Black Lives Matter movement, and how conservatives can better do a better job in reaching out to minorities. When Black Lives Matter protests occur, Morrow believes conservatives often dismiss the black community's concerns by pointing a finger at black on black crime - inferring that his community should be doing more to protest black on black crime before they can have a grievance with abuses by law enforcement officers. He says:
You often hear conservatives bring up black on black crime as some sort of sick counterpoint to when people protest police-involved shootings, and my argument has always been from day one: "Those black on black crime marches happen, you just don't know about it or you don't participate in it." And the media doesn't cover it. And that's not just a liberal media thing. The conservative media doesn't either.
So on this Saturday the annual remembrance and a Stop the Violence march sponsored by a local mega church coincided, and Darvio knew he needed to document this powerful scene, where hundreds of members of a community without a lot of hope still came together to attempt to make a positive change.
Shirellda Terry was only 18 when she was murdered, in East Cleveland, the last victim of a serial killer. Morrow recalls:
To see someone lose their life so violently, at that young age, is heartbreaking. And she was a really good kid. Everybody says that, but she was. She was in the youth media program at a non-profit my mother runs and where I help teach, where inner-city teens are trained to be journalists, radio personalities, artists, actors, etc. She was a very good interviewer. She was extremely smart and had a bright future ahead of her. And then she was kidnapped, raped, and murdered. So every summer her mother, the Rev. Belinda Minor, Rellda's grandmother, and the families of the other victims put together an event for remembrance.
The neighborhood where Rellda was murdered is one of the poorest in the country. The remembrance is held there every year as a way to turn that negative into a positive and try to bring some light to the situation. Well on the same day the Word Church was doing its Casket Crusade march, where they bring a bunch of people together and protest violence in our community and they have men bringing down two caskets in the procession. So we had a moment where we basically combined the two. I think it's sad in a way that there's so much going on that there were two events dedicated to ending violence happening at the same time in the same city.
Unfortunately the problem of violence in East Cleveland is widespread, and Shirellda's story is just one example of many promising lives cut far too short.
The stories of hard-working people freely giving hours and days and weeks of their time to inspire others and change a community dynamic aren't told as often as they should. Morrow hopes that by spreading the word about the groups actively involved, that perceptions will change and more people will get involved.
So my challenge to people is that if you really care about black on black crime, if you really mean it when you bring it up, then do something about it. Stop the Violence marches happen all across the country and they rarely get publicized. I just want people to know that it's possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. It's possible to be concerned about the actions of police AND also be concerned about black on black crime. Just because you don't see the marches doesn't mean they aren't happening.
We don't own the television networks, we can't control what they choose to cover or not. It's almost like we get punished for not being the assignment editor of a news outlet. Get involved, find out where those marches are happening, and go out and march if it really matters to you and it's not just a convenient way to change the subject away from police behavior.
Even significant changes are brought about one person at a time. Positive community involvement by law enforcement officers is a large factor in preventing officer-involved shootings. It was fitting that later Saturday Morrow posted this video from his friend, a police officer in the same neighborhood.
Officer Reese Glass wrote, "I just want to be the police officer, I always wanted to see in my community. Giving buckets to the youth."
Word Church is organizing a Casket Crusade in Cleveland on Saturday, July 29.