“Annie Christian was a whore always looking for some fun
being good was such a bore, so she bought a gun
she killed John Lennon, shot him down cold
she tried to kill Reagan, everybody say gun control”
–Prince, “Annie Christian” (1981)
” … a prayer vigil/press conference at Brookdale Hospital to pray for the 16-year-old girl that was shot point blank in the face. The Saturday, January 15 shooting took place on Belmont and Sackman in Brownsville, Brooklyn….”
–E-mail posted by Brooklyn clergy and community leaders (2011)
Prince, the musical genius and icon, was singing in “Annie Christian” about an American mind-set of 30 long years ago, one that is very alive today. And obviously, far more males than females engage in gunplay, as evidenced by the men who shot John Lennon, President Ronald Reagan and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Regardless of the metaphors, we should heed Prince’s point.
The Brooklyn girl referenced above is Kervina Ervin, who was in critical condition but has progressed enough that she will now have surgery on her mouth, since it was badly damaged by the bullet. There has been much speculation on why Kervina was shot (Was it gang-related? Was it revenge for some prior street fight?). But what is clear is that Kervina is, symbolically, millions of miles away from Tucson, Ariz., and the national outpouring of grief (well-deserved) that has accompanied the day-to-day vigil for Giffords.
For sure, Kervina’s life is as valuable as the congresswoman’s. Yet we would not know that because there has been no presidential visit to Brownsville, one of the poorest communities in America, and a hood often littered with the pop-pop-pop of bullets. Nor has there been round-the-clock media coverage. What we have instead is Kervina’s family, led by her mother, doing the best they can to make sure Kervina survives that gunshot.
And I wish I could say Kervina was the sole victim of gun violence in Brooklyn in January, but I cannot. For the period of Friday, Jan. 14, 2011, through Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011, there were two murders and seven nonfatal shooting incidents, with a total of 11 nonfatal shooting victims. And that is only for communities in northern Brooklyn. Imagine what is happening in other parts of this New York City borough that I love dearly, or in so-called ghettos nationwide. Right here in our America we are losing a generation of young people to gun blasts that rival the violence in Afghanistan or Iraq, or in other war-torn countries.
Accordingly, as we debate guns, gun control and what happened, precisely, in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Jan. 8, and who, exactly, is responsible, I think it’s time we cease pointing fingers at one another and take a good look in the mirror at ourselves.