BY JOSEPH GLASGOW
The recent drive-by shooting of 8-year-old Ah’Miyahh Howell highlights need for fresh approach to improve opportunities in Statesville’s Southside community.
The Southside community is known by many as a city within a city that has been neglected and underserved for too long. Economic development and other meaningful opportunities have eluded this community for decades, and now today we mourn the loss of a child just starting her life. Despite the promises of local political leaders over many years, the Southside continues to be in disrepair and the victim of broken promises that continue to shatter hopes for too many families. This neglect must end, and I am determined more than ever to join with others to build a better and more prosperous life for all.
Drastic change is warranted to improve life for Southsiders and help our neighbors and friends create a community where all enjoy economic achievement, happiness, and prosperity, and thereby help to reduce criminality and violence.
Equitable economic growth necessitates inclusive economic development policies—policies that expand opportunities for shared prosperity by focusing on low-income communities that have traditionally been underinvested in and undervalued in their ability to contribute to overall economic growth.
Research from the Urban Institute indicates that inclusion and financial health are strongly correlated across the spectrum. Investing in inclusive economic development initiatives ensures that underserved low-income individuals and their families can fully participate in the economic growth of a community at large, while at the same time build wealth within their communities. In reality, this requires a multi-pronged approach that invests in the people and places that make our communities more equal, inclusive, and resilient.
It is my firm belief that we must ensure that funding resources are shifted to encourage employment, skills and knowledge development, and economic activity, rather than funding wasteful spending on expensive economic activities such as some capital improvement projects. Most importantly, ignoring the urgency of this problem will inflict lasting damage on our young people and our wider community.
Intervention and prevention to reduce violence has to originate in a multi- disciplinary approach that includes financial, spiritual, and physical support within the community. There must be involvement by public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, and include parents, churches, and educators. Be reminded that not every issue of violence is the same from one neighborhood to the next, requiring community focus groups and forums to help identify each problem at its source.
Once this objective has been met, an aggressive program focusing on conflict resolution and self-esteem building must be instituted. This program ideally needs to be initiated at the elementary student level. (Most scientists agree that cognitive and behavioral patterns become very well defined by the adolescent years. This is not disregarding the teenager, but an effective violence prevention strategy should work like the “public health model” and address the primary issue of prevention before the problem has been identified.) More aggressive methods of conflict resolution and self-esteem building should be instituted at the adolescent level. This approach must include mentoring programs so that fatherless young men can have role models who are supportive while exemplifying African-American adult survivors.
Two possible financing sources include the American Rescue Plan funds received by the City of Statesville and the federal “Opportunity Zone” program, which would designate Southside as a federal “Opportunity Zone” to incentivize private investors to make long-term investments in the community.
The tragic death of Ah’Miyahh Howell must not be repeated. And yet, as 2021 progresses, we could see large numbers of young people looking for jobs that aren’t there for them. This is a ticking time bomb. Many of these young people, particularly young men, could well be drawn into antisocial behavior, which in some cases will graduate into severe violence and crime.
It’s time to come together as a community to develop both short-term strategies to provide work for our young people today as well as long-term strategies for the young people of tomorrow.
Joseph Glasgow, PhD, lives in Statesville.