On Friday morning, everything stopped. The country was virtually paralyzed watching the horrific tragedy unfold in Newtown, CT where 20 innocent children and six adults lost their lives. They were only attending school like any other day. As we continued to grapple with the unspeakable reality of guns and violence in America, I started receiving calls from coast-to-coast about bias coverage. People started telling me that the only reason this shooting massacre received such attention was because it occurred in a mostly White suburban town. The irony is that some of those saying this were never standing with us in our communities when we protested gun violence.
At the end of the day, this isn't about black, white, brown, yellow or any shade in between, it's about OUR children and the rampant epidemic of violence throughout the country. And it's about our duty to ban assault rifles and enact stiffer gun legislation. We cannot be distracted by division; we must turn this unfortunate moment and mobilize it into a movement for victims everywhere.
When news of the Newtown story began spreading, I was reminded of another child's life violently taken this summer. Lloyd Morgan Jr. was a 4-year-old who was gunned down by a stray bullet as he played outside near his home in the Bronx. Preaching at his funeral and looking at this young boy's lifeless body shook me to the core; so much so that I called for four weekends of 'Occupy the Corners.' Standing on some of NYC's most vulnerable street corners, members of my organization (National Action Network), clergy, elected officials, activists and people from the community all dressed in white, talked to residents, looked for any signs of conflict and urged people to put down their guns going forward.
In cities like Chicago where we've watched dozens killed in one night, and children murdered on their way to school simply because they lived in a neglected neighborhood, we've called for action. Throughout the country, we've rallied, marched and raised awareness, and unfortunately, many of those now claiming biased media coverage of the Newtown massacre were absent and silent when it happened in their own communities. When we buried Lloyd Morgan Jr. many Black leaders were MIA; when we occupied the corners, many Black leaders were MIA; and as we continually tackled the problem of gun violence, many Black leaders were MIA. Now they want to say something.
Last night, President Obama delivered one of the most powerful and moving addresses to the nation. As he comforted the grieving families, those in Newtown and all of us watching at home, he also reminded us that we are simply not doing enough to protect our most precious commodity -- our babies.
"We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change," he stated. And change we must. There's no reason why a civilian must have access to assault rifles or high-capacity magazines. There's no reason why someone can walk into a school and shoot defenseless kids as if they were in battle. There's no reason why a child playing on a playground should die from stray bullets or fear going to school. There's no reason why any of us should think twice about watching a movie, attending prayer service, shopping at the mall or walking down the street.
People have been advocating for stiffer gun legislation for years, but now they have the momentum of the nation behind them. The question isn't when, why or how the media covers tragedies, but rather what we do in their aftermath.