published Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

David Cook: How long will it last?

The cease-fire called Sunday night by many city gangs was originally scheduled to take place at a City Hall building.

And the organizers of the peace talks — "it's time to stand down,'' they said — had asked Boyd Patterson, director of the Gang Task Force, to host it.

But at 5:30 Sunday afternoon, Mayor Ron Littlefield was standing outside the building. As if guarding the door.

He said to one of the organizers: You can have your talks, but you can't have them here.

Makes sense. If things had gone wrong, they would have gone really wrong. All in City Hall.

And by then, organizers were searching for a new, neutral location anyway. Word on the street? If the mayor knows, then cops know too.

But there was something about the way the mayor spoke. The dismissive tone. His cavalier way of suggesting that even if he had unlocked the doors, nothing would have come of it anyway.

We all want to play Henry Kissinger, he said.

Yet three hours later, without the help of anyone within city government, gang leaders had pulled off the unthinkable.

A cease-fire.

Which makes this Day 3.

This column is not about faulting the mayor. That's cheap, easy and not the point now.

The only question worth asking right now:

How long can this last?

Will the cease-fire make Day 33? Day 83?

Not every gang was present on Sunday night. The big ones. The worst ones.

But not all.

So, jealousy grows. Animosity. Whatever. Someone may take a shot, just to wreck it.

What then?

What then.

For Day 3 to become Day 263, we've got to add another pronoun to our question.

Can they make it last?

But can we do it too?

Sitting at that dining room table Sunday night and watching the cease-fire unfold, I thought back to another table I had seen recently.

Not just one. But about 25 of them. All full of people — black, white, young, old, rich, poor — talking about stopping crime.

At Andy Berke's public forum on crime, hundreds of folks showed up, and one question they tried to answer: What can each of us do to stop crime?

And then ... the Palm Sunday cease-fire happens.

Yes, the weight of responsibility falls on those gang shoulders. The violence starts with them, and must stop there too.

But if they can do it, for Day 5 to reach Day 55, we have to get involved.

A bigger off-ramp must be created. Something positive. Lots of things positive. Something to fill the void. Something other than that.

This is where the rest of us come in.

Watching some of the smartest, most connected, influential people attend that Berke forum made me realize how much people care about this. And how much could happen.

What? Well, I don't completely know.

But I do know it involves jobs. And more jobs. And training, apprenticeships, education, positive mentors, God, and something more than poverty.

I know it involves what good people are already doing. Times 50.

These gang leaders have shown — if only for a handful of days — something none of us expected.

Perhaps we can do the same.

Who knows what can happen when we start putting some faith in folks we may be quick to dismiss.

Who knows what can happen when we start finding ways to unlock some doors.

Here's to Day 4.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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jjmez said...

How long will it last?

I think it all depends on who's really controlling this picture, and why?

1906 or 2013, same old same old/different day /different century. Nothing ever really change but the scenery and characters.

March 28, 2013 at 3:56 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Looks as if it lasted until Wednesday afternoon.

March 28, 2013 at 4:44 p.m.
shen said...

Too many powerful people have a vested interest in the continuation of the gang saga to let it just go away. Look at all the people who would lose position, federal grant dollars and possibly their jobs to allow solutions to get in the way.

The very same climate we're witnessing emerging in Chattanooga today is the very same climate in 1906, and other periods, that led to the lynching of an innocent man, and who knows how many others paid a similar or same price, on the Walnut Street Bridge.

Whomever is behind feeding this fear and paranoia throughout the city, I pray God will have mercy on your souls. Tragically, this is Chattanooga history repeating itself.

March 28, 2013 at 6:37 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Shen, who are these people? Is the repeated scene of young men being shot to death paranoia? I'd call that reality.

March 28, 2013 at 9:04 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Mayor Littlefield was correct on this one.

March 28, 2013 at 11:46 p.m.
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