One person who spoke on the gun-violence panel who does agree with stop and frisk was Joe McFarlane. He is the father of Janay McFarlane, the 18-year-old who was shot and killed in Chicago after her sister attended President Barack Obama’s gun-violence speech there on Feb. 15. McFarlane told The Root that as a youth in Chicago, he was always stopped and searched, and he believes that, done right, it is an effective crime-fighting tool. He went on to say that if the group that accompanied his daughter’s killer had been stopped, Janay would possibly still be alive.
McFarlane is now dedicating his time to speaking about his daughter and gun violence. He told the audience that he wants to keep her alive in the hearts and minds of people. “I was thrown into this. It’s the worst feeling in the world to identify your baby with a bullet in her head, so I will do whatever I can to make a difference,” said McFarlane.
Janay’s mother, Angela Blakely, who was also on the gun-violence panel, told the audience, “I feel ashamed of our race because we are killing off our own people.” Now raising her daughter’s 5-month-old son, she noted the climate of hostility that seems to have overtaken so many young people, who are shooting one another for the most ridiculous reasons.
That was a sentiment echoed by another mother on the panel who lost a daughter to gun violence, Cleo Cowley. Her daughter, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, was killed in Chicago just days after attending President Obama’s second inauguration in Washington, D.C. “Embrace the youth. You see someone who is troubled, don’t walk away — help them,” she encouraged listeners.
She said she sees gun violence as a symptom of a culture that takes what it wants and has not been taught that there is another way to live. Cowley told The Root that her daughter’s death has motivated her in ways she never imagined. “This cannot be for naught; I have to make good on what happened,” she said.
Both families are starting foundations in their daughters’ names and hope to include community programs that address the roots of gun violence. One thing on which all the panelists agreed was that gun laws would not be enough to deter gun violence, which is the leading cause of death among black teens ages 15 to 19. Community programs that engage youths and adults are needed, too.
As Marcus Coleman, the president of the Atlanta chapter of NAN, put it, “If we don’t get our hands dirty, it won’t happen easily. We have to do more in our community. All the policies mean nothing if we don’t do more with our youth.”
Julie Walker is a New York-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.