Is there a way to stop senseless shootings and killings?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Gunfire erupted June 7 on the grounds of Victory for the World Church, immediately after a funeral for a teen homicide victim. Two gunmen killed each other during that parking lot fight. A metrowide summit on youth violence was held Wednesday at Victory. Today, the senior pastor writes about a chasm that exists between community values and the mentality of young black males who don’t respect them. And the son of a late AJC sportswriter calls for stronger father figures.

In addition to the two commentaries below, read related essays by Iman Plemon T. El-Amin, a member of Higher Ground; and Edward Jennings Jr. on reconnecting families with fathers.

Awakened by eight bullets

By Kenneth L. Samuel

I’d felt a certain uneasiness with the mother’s response to my repeated question:

Kenneth L. Samuel

Kenneth L. Samuel

“Why was your son killed?”

Her only refrain was that he had gotten into a fight and been shot.

In light of her grief, I repressed the urge to press for more information.

But in the immediate aftermath of her son’s funeral, when gunshots erupted in the parking lot of our church, all the deadly details came to light.

Her son, a 19-year-old, had a police record. He was alleged to have recently broken into an apartment, stolen some drugs and jewelry, and physically assaulted a woman. The woman he was accused of assaulting was the mother of his alleged killer.

Looking out at a congregation of about 500 people at the young man’s funeral, I was moved by the large number of young people in attendance.

Lifting the biblical text of Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days …,” I tried to reach my youthful audience with a message about the need to value life, set the right priorities and stay connected to caring communities.

Most seemed to listen attentively, but apparently not all.

The eight bullets fired in the church parking lot minutes after the funeral disrupted the solemn procession bound for the burial site.

It pierced the heart of our whole community.

Those bullets have caused faith leaders, elected officials and civic-minded residents across metro Atlanta and the country to take another look, a sobering look, at the widening chasm that has developed between the values we uphold in the community and the mentality of the alarming numbers of young black males who are devoid of those values.

Those eight bullets have reawakened our community to the desperate plight of young black men in America.

And the bullets — the assaults upon the lives of young black males — keep coming. They come due to the crisis of parenting in the black community.

I grew up in a time, not so long ago, when corporal punishment did not mean child abuse. It meant discipline.

Can we cite cases in which some parents were a bit too heavy-handed in their physical discipline? Of course.

But not many of us who were the recipients of that kind of discipline doubt that it wasn’t given with an eye toward our future.

I’m one of three sons raised by a single mother in the South Bronx of New York City. My mother (who would no doubt be in jail for child abuse today) often reminds me and my brothers that her strong physical discipline was executed to keep us out of jail. That being the case, she succeeded.

Far be it from me to advocate the wholesale return to any draconian methods of child rearing, but to be honest, I’d much rather see responsible parents exert corporal punishment upon our children than see police officers and prison guards exert corporal punishment upon our children.

Unfortunately, the first real disciplinarian that some young black men encounter is someone from the police.

If corporal punishment is no longer socially acceptable, parenting classes should be available, affordable and accessible to provide parents (especially single moms) with the knowledge, support and resources vital to the disciplined development of adolescents and teens.

And this is to say nothing of the bullets that systematically assault young black males through the lack of investment in public school education, Head Start and after-school programs.

All together, these toxic factors combine to produce a growing sense of despair in the minds of many black young men who are undisciplined, uneducated, unemployed and unmotivated.

And this hopelessness is the most lethal bullet of them all.

Kenneth L. Samuel is senior pastor of Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain.

Strong fathers might fix senseless chaos

By Renford R. Reese

A few days ago marked my first Father’s Day in 44 years without my father, longtime AJC sportswriter Earnest Reese.

Renford R. Reese

Renford R. Reese

As I reflected on Father’s Day, I thought about the consequences of not having him in my life.

I thought about whether having someone like Earnest Reese as a father or mentor could have mitigated the recent violence at Auburn University or the double fatal shooting during a funeral at Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain.

These reflections compelled me to examine the role of having a strong father in my life.

Perhaps stronger fatherhood is the element that would help resolve the senseless chaos among young black men.

My father led by example. He was the loving husband to my mother for 47 years. I learned invaluable lessons from this commitment. I saw him go to work every day and simply do his job. He was a professional who excelled at his job.

I emulated him and never missed a day of high school in my four years, while lettering in four sports and maintaining an “A” average. Like my father, I tried to lead by example.

Earnest Reese never missed a chance to teach a lesson. He took his job as a father seriously. He knew that he was my first role model and that if he did his job the right way, he would always be the most influential person in my life.

My father taught me to contradict society’s stereotypes, in behavior and attitude. Smart kids around me failed in school because school was not cool. Young black men have embraced and glorified the gangsta/thug persona.

My father taught me not to buy into such counterproductive irrationality. I dressed, walked and talked like a leader. He always held me accountable for my behavior. Imagine if all fathers held their sons accountable in this way.

My father taught me that there were other options in life besides professional sports, entertainment or the streets.

By the end of my senior season on the Vanderbilt University football team, I was ranked among the top 10 NFL safety prospects in the country.

I played in the prestigious Blue-Gray All Star game and attended the NFL Combine Camp. Nevertheless, I went undrafted in the 1990 NFL Draft.

If Earnest Reese had not been my father, this experience would have been traumatic. He told me to savor my memories and to transfer the intensity of the football field into a new endeavor.

Six years after the 1990 NFL Draft, I received my Ph.D. from USC (Los Angeles) after completing my dissertation research on ethnic conflict and intergroup relations at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development in Geneva, Switzerland.

I have been a political science professor at Cal Poly Pomona for 16 years.

I am the founder/director of the Prison Education Project and the Reintegration Academy for Parolees.

With my father’s inspiration and guidance, I have authored five books.

Beyond these accomplishments, I am at ease with giving. I am comfortable with being a role model.

I take pride in embracing the spirit and legacy of my father.

The most poignant lesson that he taught me was that you get what you give in life.

If you give love, you get love.

If you give respect, you get respect.

He taught me that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.

If somehow, each father could in his own way embrace the discipline, love, warmth, empathy, inspiration and compassion of Earnest Reese, imagine the impact it could have in our collective communities.

Renford R. Reese is a political science professor at Cal Poly Pomona University.

29 comments Add your comment


June 21st, 2012
5:25 pm

This discussion is not about how blacks are treated disproportionately to whites when it comes to crimes. This discussion is about fatherless children.

If you can’t make the connection between “locked up in jail” and “unable to be a father” then please return to your own domestic situation, Eric. You of all people should not be pulling the judgement card.

Do you think the African-American community had a secret meeting to decide they wanted to commit a bunch of crimes? I don’t accept “black people just commit more crimes” without asking WHY that might be the case. You seem capable of pondering WHY you are a crappy father and your son is failing without ducking or deciding your son should simply pull himself up by his own bootstraps. Please extend that courtesy to others.


June 21st, 2012
5:22 pm

Young people today do not want to pay the price of educating themselves ( we’re not talking about financial cost but hard studying, listening, and applying concepts and principles to their everyday life) because they want to be an athlete, entertainer, or celebrity that makes a lot of money. Temptation of quick easy money prevails and causes disaster to lives. A lot of youngsters have the wrong role model. How do we control the glamor of quick and easy vs. moral and difficult as the most rewarding course to take?


June 21st, 2012
5:16 pm

…and furthermore for the record, this article is NOT about “fatherless children”! It begs the question of the BROADER SOCIAL DYNAMIC as it relates to violence in the Black community, of which one section is this guy taking about his father’s impact on HIM. Reading IS fundamental, you know?? You just try to make it out to be the subject because it allows for easy targeting. But then again I do realize that you always expect people to believe that because YOU say something is… that’s what it in fact is. Hhaaa! Psssttt!


June 21st, 2012
5:09 pm

Just so you know, I myself am a well accomplished PROFESSIONAL with a beautiful family and accomplished bright children. BUT…I realize I am ONE THING that Whites who love to hate – ONE WHO UNAPOLOGETICALLY SPEAKS OUT ABOUT THE HARSH REALITY THAT IS RACISM IN THIS COUNTRY. We know you’d rather remain in denail about it. YOU expect ME to be a sellout and take the position that just because I have MINE that I should just shut up, be happy and pretend that what is isn’t and what isn’t is. NEGATIVE!


June 21st, 2012
4:54 pm

EVERYONE LISTEN ! especially Ken Samuel, kids DO come with an instruction manual, the BIBLE ! Pastor Samuel, you KNOW what Proverbs says, SPARE THE ROD , SPOIL THE CHILD !


June 21st, 2012
3:28 pm


We are going to agree to disagree. While I do believe that black criminals are treated more harshly than white criminals…the fact remains that they are all CRIMINALS. This discussion is not about how blacks are treated disproportionately to whites when it comes to crimes. This discussion is about fatherless children. That my friend is NOT a race issue. Personally I think if someone commits a crime, they should pay, regardless of skin color. But here is where it gets a bit ugly and you will think I am a racist for pointing this out. I read the AJC daily, and almost EVERY violent crime that is committed is done so by a black male. So while I do think it is unfair to punish black males more harshly than whites who commit crimes, I have a feeling that judges are fed up with seeing the parade of young black men going through their court room, and impose harsher sentences out of irritation with the black community that continues to act in a criminal manner. The simple fact is if you do your homework you will find that a slim margin of violent crimes are perpetrated by black offenders, and while on its surface that may seem things are equal, they in fact are not. When you take into consideration the percentage of the black population as compared to whites, you will find when you do the math there is a disproportionate number of black violent offenders. Now I am not the type to say that it is this way simply because they are black and that is their nature as some other offensive people.

What I will say is that there is a disproportionate number of black children without a father in the home, which certainly contributes to the higher number of black criminals. But again, this is NOT a race issue, this is a family issue. It has been shown over and over again that fatherless children of any race tend to have a criminal background. I think we need to separate the issue of blacks being treated more harshly for their crimes, and the fact that being fatherless leads to more crime. They are simply two different issues that have been intertwined. But the two issues are separate and need to be treated separately.

There needs to be parenting classes given early to at risk youths, so that if they do have a child at a young age, they are given some tools to stop the cycle. The reason I think it is so much easier to be an absent father than an absent mother is because the mother carries the child. She may have been a wild party girl up to the point of getting pregnant, but most young girls go into mother mode immediately after becoming pregnant and do everything they can to protect their child. Men go through no such change, especially when they are not married to the mother. So while the mother changes her entire life to accomodate a child, it’s ten times easier for the male to continue doing whatever he wants. Figure out a way to shoulder him with the birth process and you’ll see a huge change in attitude. Of course, that isn’t possible, so we need to figure out a way to instill the fatherly instinct in young men at an early age. This goes for every race, not just blacks.

If after all that you still feel that the two are the same issue, then you need to pull your head out of the sand and stop making excuses for the black community.


June 21st, 2012
3:09 pm

Wow Willie,

It’s not like we haven’t heard these excuses before. You perfectly frame why black males have not and will not progress in this country. I have an idea, instead of crying about being arrested for robbing someone bc you’re black, stop committing crimes. I know, it’s a genius idea.


June 21st, 2012
2:58 pm

Both El-Amin and Jennings elegantly frame the problems of fatherless homes. Their solutions are too late for the present generation and we’ll have to continue building more jails and hiring more police until the birthrate of illegitimate children is brought under control.


June 21st, 2012
2:46 pm

There must be an INDIVIDUAL effort to teach what is right before you can expect a community or group to rise above a challenge.


June 21st, 2012
2:01 pm


It’s easy for you to sy it is not a race problem, beacause for. White person in the U.S. you just do not see through the same lens, and your very story is evidence of that. It IS IN FACT a race problem, when placed in the context of the SYSTEM (social, economic, justice, etc). Look at all that you stated. Yes, you intervened to a degree, BUT…for the average Black male in the exact same circumstance as your son that many chances and avenues are NOT afforded. You see…when White kids are exposed to or face the ills of society, the “system” continually props them up – strings are pulled where possible, new opportunited granted, etc. Why? Because “White America” seems to have the image ingrained in its mind that the image you portrayed of your son is the exception and not the rule in your community, regardless of how many examples are given to them.

The system “understands”, empathizes and is VERY compassionate when it comes to white kids. Blacks…lock them up, throw away the key, write them off, they’re “uncivilized” – that what the system thinks of them. That’s the difference. Need proof? You’re breathing right? I am sure you see, hear, read it every day.