Gangs: Death and Mass Media Essay

Submitted By MsBrownski
Words: 1279
Pages: 6

In the city of Trenton, 120 people were shot between January 1 and June 30, 19 murders were recorded just halfway through this year. Gangs, comprised predominantly of youth under 25 years old, and an epidemic that apparently has taken the city by surprise, are suspected in at least 26 of these homicides (The Times, 2013, p. 4). In areas like Columbine, Ohio, grief counselors were chauffeured in immediately to counsel and console an entire community when juveniles opened fire killing and injuring classmates and teachers before taking their own lives. Today, memorial services and candlelight vigils are held in remembrance of the lives lost and in support of the survivors affected by that tragic event. However, inner city youth are not afforded these same accolades. Except for one instance where two little girls perished in a gang related fire with their father, there were no grief counselors available at city public or charter schools. Administrators have not incorporated anything into the curriculum to address death, no additional services have been offered by community organizations to support the area’s children devastated by their loss nor has the city instituted a day of remembrance or even a moment of silence for the slain. When a homicide occurs in an environment plagued almost weekly, in some cases daily, by violence, death is so ‘normal’ that the value of life appears to be minimized. While family members of the homicide victims are bombarded with visitors, phone calls and gifts of edible and monetary denominations expressing their condolences, the city’s youth are unsupported. As a symbol of their allegiance and alliance to the lives loss to murder, white sheets are displayed at or near murder scenes and autographed by friends of the deceased. Burnt candle residue, Dutch Master wrappers and empty alcohol containers are often left to litter the ground beneath these “memorials” perhaps as a form of mourning for, or in celebration of life at, the loss of a sibling, best friend, classmate or possible gang affiliate. Like visitors, these “memorials” appear the very first day of the homicide and disappear after the funeral. During this time, they are observed by various passers-by including the police, church members, community activists, teachers, parents and relatives of the deceased and mass media, all important forms of communication and authority throughout society. These sheets, serving as shrines to an underage and misunderstood but important population in the community, the youth, are often misinterpreted as a form of disrespect in lieu of a life loss. A mother might wonder if the life and death of her son boils down to that of a story sprawled across a bed sheet with slogans and signatures littered by negative paraphernalia in an area plagued by violence committed mostly by misguided juveniles against innocent bystanders or other misguided juveniles and hung by his friends?! However, who teaches the children the proper way to mourn and the true value of life? By minimizing the possible long-term effects of the pain and loss experienced by the children in this community, Trenton may be contributing to its own demise. Although the city has stepped up a little by improving some neighborhoods and providing a limited number of gang awareness seminars to the community and afterschool and weekend programs are now offering gang awareness and prevention activities, the overwhelming dilemma of death, especially by homicide, and its effects on youth has still gone unmentioned. In light of the high crime, violence and death rate being attributed to the influx of gangs, should Trenton public schools include lessons on death and dying in their daily curriculum?
It is believed that a school system prepares children for their adult roles while assisting in maintaining an orderly and efficient society (Curry, Jiobou and Schwirian, 2005, p. 360). Most children enhance their personalities, establish friendships and develop…