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In September 1991, while serving on the Razorback Football Coaching Staff, I was activated to military duty as a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and deployed to the Persian Gulf for the Operation Desert Shield and Storm Conflict. America supposedly entered the war to protect its interest and to expel Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. President Hussein had forcefully occupied Kuwait with the intentions of governing the country and controlling their oil resource.

I remember the anxiety inside of me when instructed to draw my M-16 weapon and ammunition as I was sent forward to King Khalid Military City (KKMC). This strategic base supported all branches of the armed forces as we prepared for the ground offensive to remove the Iraqi Army and return the governing rights back to the Kuwait people.

I remain highly impressed at how the United States military forces mobilized so uniformly and strategically to kick out the Iraqi Dictator and his Republican Guard soldiers to save the lives of Kuwait citizens, all in the name of freedom. I recall the massive amounts of U.S. fire power unleashed on our enemies, and Saddam’s Army was never a match for the U.S. Military.

That was in Kuwait, a country located in the Middle East where I didn’t know one person nor was I related to anyone, which I am sure was common for most U.S. soldiers. My question is: how can America deploy forces thousands of miles around the world to stop violence, terrorism, and anarchy to save lives of non-U.S. citizens, but will not address the violence crisis on its own soil?

In late January of this year, three Black U.S. soldiers deployed at a U.S. base in Jordan near the borders of Syria and Iraq were killed by a drone attack and the President of the United States immediately responded with an assault of firepower for those responsible for taking U.S. lives. “The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere in the world,” expressed the Commander in Chief. “But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”

The fact is, there are certain communities in America where homicides occur daily, which suggests certain zip codes are actually more dangerous than places of international conflict and war… this is particularly so for Black youth. Nevertheless, there has yet to be such an immediate response to protect American citizens domestically as demonstrated by our government on foreign soil to protect American lives abroad.

Why is there not an immediate response to the epidemic of deaths of Black youth in America as noted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC)? Why are the deaths of Black youth not being discussed as the epidemic rapidly spreads through underserved communities? Why aren’t there more grant funding opportunities available to address the social determinants responsible for the spreading of the homicide virus which is taking the lives of Black youth more than any other forms of health-related deaths?

This was evident in December 2023 and January 2024 in Pulaski and Jefferson Counties in the natural state of Arkansas. On January 12th, 16-year-old Kendall Burton was discovered with several gunshot wounds in the streets of Pine Bluff and died at the scene. Burton had beaten the disease of cancer but succumbed to the deadly homicide virus which is more lethal to Black male youth than cancer or deadly car accidents. There has yet to be a response.

There’s more. Why is our Black community not in an uproar regarding the cold-blooded killings of 13-year-old Deonta Gurley and 14-year-old Naqualo Smith, whose bodies were discovered after the Little Rock Police Department responded to reports of gunfire in the Capital City? For someone to take the lives of two Black youth in a manner in which their death has been described speaks to the self-hate manifesting within our communities without a call to action to hold those responsible on domestic soil - as President Biden has done on foreign soil.

Did you know that gun-related deaths for Black youth have increased every year since 2013, with a 108.3% increase from 2013 to 2020? That’s the goal of 1stAnd45.com - to bring this darkness to light as well as lead and attempt to change the narrative by putting neighbors back into the hoods, to help our youth learn to read, stay in school, and earn their high school diplomas.

It appears that America invests more resources into taking care of foreign issues than it does addressing the domestic crises which are leading to the loss of lives and filling prison cells with long-term sentences for which taxpayers will be required to foot the bill. The lack of response to Black youth dying from violence can only be explained as “benign neglect” in America, particularly Black America.

Today and tomorrow, data trends suggest it is safe to assume that 30 Black males will be murdered in the streets of America, as described by what happened in the streets of Pine Bluff and Little Rock. On average, at least five of those will be between the ages of 1 and 19. Black America must stand against the evil that is responsible for taking the lives of our Black youth.

It is essential for Black communities to mobilize to save our children from the internal and external forces producing the violent deaths in our neighborhoods. An example of such Black leadership was the call to arms to combat the evil forces responsible for enacting the Jim Crow Laws of injustices on Black Americans responsible for taking innocent lives such as Emmett Till’s.

All non-accidental violent deaths should be considered hate crimes against humanity; consequently, Black Americans cannot remain silently on the sidelines while Black youth murder each other and only speak out or attempt to raise awareness when Blacks are killed by the police or by someone outside our race.

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