By Gary Lee, For The Oklahoma Eagle Photography, Basil Childers
A small, spirited group of North Tulsans staged a march in this week to protest the Black-on-Black violence that has become rampant in the city’s Black community. In the Black-on-Black Respect March, held Friday afternoon, more than 30 participants walked from the Solid Foundation Preparatory Academy to Chamberlain Park on the far northside of Tulsa. The participants included members from some families who had recently lost relatives to gun violence.
Richard Baxter, an anti-violence crusader, organized the protest to bring awareness to gun violence among Black Tulsans and explore ways to mitigate it.
“The objective is to bring people together who care about this issue and want to help resolve it,” Baxter said in an interview with the Oklahoma Eagle. “We have to be here for our community.” The march was also designed to pay respect to all Black lives lost to gun violence “in-our community, by our community,” Baxter added.
The event took place against a backdrop of increased gun violence involving Blacks in Tulsa. For the past few months, the drumbeat of reports of shootings in the Black community has been steady. Last December, the shootings of two 13-year-olds within a week at the Savanna Landing apartment complex on south Peoria shocked the community.
Lamar Norman Jr., whose 13-year-old son Lamar Norman III was one of the victims of the shootings, took part in Friday’s march.
“I would want to be here for someone else’s son,” he told KTUL TV. “Or someone else’s mother.”
Drumbeat of shootings
“The cause is bigger than me, you know, and it’s bigger than him,” he added. “And that’s what I always told my boy, that is bigger than us.”
In the most recent case, a killing took place last Friday in the neighborhood where the march occurred. During a confrontation at a house near North Kenosha and East 53rd Street North, a suspect shot 59-year-old, James Kinnard in the chest and killed him. Kinnard’s son witnessed the shooting and called 911. Police have identified the suspect and are looking for him.
Baxter feels the case illustrates the root causes of gun violence, Baxter said. In “People have to realize that they have power over their actions,” he said. When disputes occur, the participants have to stop thinking that someone pushed them to commit violence and instead understand that when they feel provoked, they have to take responsibility for how they respond, and they have various options.
Baxter established a nonprofit, NegroSpiritual121, to mobilize efforts to fight gun violence in the community. He has planned a series of events and activities that will take place over the next few months. They include monthly community trust builders, weekly family-oriented education and entertainment events, and a three-day retreat. He is also organizing a mentoring program at McLain High school. The schedule of events is available at www.NegroSpirtual121.org
Baxter’s positive activism in the community started a decade ago when he was released from ten years in prison on drug-related charges. Originally given a 121-year sentence, he filed and won an appeal and was granted early release due to technical issues in his trial.
Following his release, Baxter founded Racism Stinks, an organization that focuses on eradicating racial biases in his hometown of Tulsa, especially within The Tulsa Police Department.
“I realize there is a lot we can do to empower ourselves,” he said. “That’s what I am trying to do.”