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Crime

Church Hill’s Generation Cycle, by Will Hall

a guest post by Will Hall

Hello, my name is Will Hall, and I’m an 35-year-old, African-American male. I’ve been a resident of the East End/Church Hill my entire life. I’ve been a frequent visitor to this website for a little over a year, and I enjoy the in-depth articles because they’re very informative, plus, this website does a very good job of keeping readers up-to-date regarding current news, and events that’s taking place in Church Hill.

Recently, I read an article on this website entitled Questions about guns and killing in the East End. This article resonated within me because the topics discussed in this article have been recurring in the East End of Richmond for as long as I can remember. There are some very important questions asked in this article, and the purpose of this article is to answer those questions, very briefly, from someone who has over 30-plus years of experience of living in the East End, or Church Hill.

I’m a small-business owner, and my spouse and I have a home in the Eastview community. We’re law abiding citizens, and I help her raise three daughters, but my life wasn’t always so “white-picket-fenced.” I used to live in Whitcomb Court, my spouse used to live in Gilpin and Whitcomb, but we eventually combined our resources and decided that we wanted better. In my early teenage years, I was in-and-out of juvenile detention, adult jails, and I even made my way to adult prison.

To be blunt, crime isn’t anything new to the East End. I was a young adult male when Richmond had 161, and 93 murders a year. I vividly remember those days, because I was a part of it and I saw what was going on. It’s no surprise to me that those same things are happening today, just on a smaller scale.

I don’t know the origins of why there’s so much crime in the East End, but I’m going to deal with the root problem, which is lack of love in the home. This problem is generational, and the youth in this area -mainly African-American – are “born into poverty”, the equivalent of someone being “born” into riches.

In the late 1980s, leading into the year 1990 – when I was the ripe old age of 10 – I saw a lot of crime and heavy drug addiction that plagued the Church Hill community.

I’ve read articles and reports about the conduct and misbehavior of the students at MLK Middle School. Well, why is this such a big issue now? I went to that school in 1990 when it was called Mosby Middle School, and every day there were student fights and student misconduct. Everyday!

My father refused to work at the time, because he was so worried that someone was going to beat me up after school. He would pick me up from school everyday. He even told me that the students at Mosby liked to pick fights when he attended it in the 1970’s.

So, why are all of these claims regarding MLK such a big deal now, when this has been going on for generations? Is it because of all of the “new” residents that moving into Church Hill? Is it because of all of the money that the city poured into the to the new school? Just because you build a new school doesn’t mean that your’re going to get rid of the generational problem that exist within those school walls.

What’s also been going on for years, and what I label as a generational cycle, is the repeated pattern of broken, fatherless homes that exist, and have existed within the East End for years. If you talk to most of the young, African-American women who currently live in these RRHA communities, most of them have one or more children, and over 65% of the time, the father isn’t there; don’t quote me on the 65%, because that percentage may be higher.

Now, I’m not going to put all of the blame on the men, because a lot of the mothers in these communities aren’t any better. Not all, but some of the women don’t work, abuse drugs, abuse prescription pills, and they don’t want to work because they’re afraid to lose their government benefits – food stamps, welfare, SSI, subsidized housing, etc.

From my experience, when money does come into these communities, the money is wasted on expensive cell phones, hair weaves, and overpriced sneakers. Most of the mothers claim that they love their children, but from what I’ve seen, their’s no discipline, and there is a total disregard for authority, and nobody is held accountable for their child’s behavior; this is why you have the generational cycle of misconduct that takes place at MLK middle.

Most of the mothers and fathers are uneducated, so they can’t help their children with school assignments, so due to a lack of interest in school, they drop out, and become pregnant. Most of the young boys go to juvenile detention, jail, then prison (refer to my history in paragraph 3). Also, when the young girl becomes pregnant, she applies for the same government assistance that her mother had, and she begins to follow in the same footsteps as her mother. Regarding the young boys/father, he leaves the child, because he isn’t equipped to be a father, plus, because his father wasn’t involved in his life, and as a result, the generational cycle repeats itself.

This also creates an environment where the children in this community feel unloved, so the young girls develop an outlet by searching for love in young men, that’s why there are so many pregnancies in the East End. The young men feel the same way, because the home that they grew up in was divided, there wasn’t any love there, so they look for unity and love in gangs, etc.

I’ve had gang members in the East End of Richmond tell me this personally, and they also told me that the “O.G.” of the gang is like a father figure to them (an O.G. is an elder of a gang). Now, since most of the young men don’t have fathers, and since they’re raised in broken, unstable homes, they join gangs, or neighborhood cliques, where’s they’re young men their age whom they can relate too. A lot of the children at MLK and Armstrong lash out and act out in school because their looking for attention, due to the frustration of not receiving the necessary love and support at home from parents who are innately supposed to love them.

Now, I don’t know why there are so many unlicensed guns in Church Hill, or how they make it into this community. I do for a fact that they’re there, and that these guns aren’t licensed to anyone. I don’t know how they’re getting into the hands of the young black men in the East End, but their there and there’s more than what someone who is new to Church Hill thinks, or what statistics state (remember, I’m speaking from personal experience).

Also, I don’t know why there’s an abundance of drugs in the East End, but I do know for a fact that illegal guns and unlicensed guns are easy to get, and that has always remained a enigma to me. I’m not going to get into any conspiracy theories, but it’s no coincidence that the Richmond city jail has always stood withing 10 minutes of each RRHA housing community. As, I stated, it’s a mystery to me on how so many unlicensed, untraceable guns and drugs makes it’s way into the East End, but I’m not naive to the fact that the criminal justice system has profited from the ignorance of African-Americans for years in the East End, and the city of Richmond as a whole.

I’m not involved in crime anymore, but as I mentioned, I’ve been to juvenile detention, jail and prison, and I don’t see how these correctional institutions have changed anyone’s behavior – I just see them as a tool for profit, and the city has taken advantage of that. Why do you think that the mayor was so quick to invest a put up that new jail?

Now, don’t take this article out of context, because their are a lot of residents in the East End/Church Hill who eventually progress out of these RRHA communities, but this article is referencing those who lack ambition, and are a cancer to the community. Their are a lot of African-American men who work, are productive, and take care of their families. You also have alot of men in the East End who are convicted felons who want to work, but can’t because of lack of opportunities in the job market in the city, which I see is slowly changing now.

There is a lot more that I can cover and discuss, but I wanted to address the root problem of crime, which is something generational that has plagued the East End for years, and why the thinking hasn’t changed. This intentions of this article aren’t to offended anyone, because I know it will, but until the root problems of the East End, Church Hill, RRHA, aren’t addressed, then this cycle will continues to last for more generations to come.

If you have anymore questions you can contact me at browntee320@yahoo.com

A guest post by Will Hall. Got something to share?

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48 comments

Ingrid 12/28/2015 at 9:36 AM

Will, thank you for your insights and personal testimony of growing up in the East End. Your experiences are valuable and your willingness to speak truth based on what you’ve gone through are helpful.

You speak about the generational cycle. From your perspective, what can be done to break this cycle? I think that’s where we will see true change.

I look forward to hearing your solutions. Thanks!

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Matt Hillian 12/28/2015 at 10:12 AM

Great Post!

As I see it, the good people of Church Hill are offered two paths: We can apply political pressure and continue to put the squeeze on our elected officials and police force until all those who lack ambition and resort to petty crimes and terrible violence are pushed out of this community and into another community that is less capable of resisting.

Alternatively, we can look within and find the capacity to share with these young people some affirmation, academic mentoring and general respect for their human dignity. I expect we’ll do both but it would be great if 2016 marks the year that CHAT’s after-school tutoring and the in-school tutoring offered at every school actually needed to turn away volunteers because of overwhelming community support.

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FormerLibbyHillResident 12/28/2015 at 10:34 AM

Wow. Very nice story and observations. You need to share your story.

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Guilty Mom 12/28/2015 at 11:41 AM

Will is the type of person needed in City politics; he gets my vote

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ann 12/28/2015 at 1:21 PM

Cogent and direct. Thanks. As asked by Ingrid in #1, what are your solutions? What are anybody’s solutions?

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Anon Church Hiller 12/28/2015 at 2:05 PM

Very well said. Solid perspective. I see that for a change there aren’t many, if any, negative or argumentative comments! …..all knows that you are right

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M A Brooks 12/28/2015 at 2:50 PM

Thank you for sharing. Proud to be your neighbor sir.

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Dave Seibert 12/28/2015 at 3:33 PM

Will thanks for sharing. You have a strong voice and a powerful story.

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dontmincewords 12/28/2015 at 3:45 PM

Wow Will. Thanks for the first person honesty. There is a lot of what I like to call “filling the emotional hole.” Like you said – seeking out love – whether it’s with a partner or a gang – to fill a void to feel a sense of purpose. CHAT, Cycling Corp and other early intervention programs help. Early ID/prevention programs may help so they know there’s a way out or hope. You are leading through example whether you know it or not. Thank you.

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Lee 12/28/2015 at 10:33 PM

Great post! A comment/question or two for the author, though… (or anyone else, I suppose)

When you say “unlicensed guns” do you mean “illegally obtained guns?” I ask because it is my understanding that Virginia does not require registration, but does (usually…) require background checks. (Which probably plays into the availability of guns).

Also, can you clarify how you think the prison or the justice system is profiting off of poverty/situations/places like the East End? On the one hand, I feel like I’ve read horror stories about private prisons (crazy fees/charges to inmates and families, kickbacks for harsher sentencing, abysmal conditions, and so forth); but it also seems just as typical to hear about prisons (public or private) being overcrowded, underfunded budgeting disasters. Who is making money, and how?

Finally, it’s interesting that you seem to be saying that drug use and drug related crime are more of a secondary concern to the problems caused by absentee fathers/parents and/or multigenerational educational issues . Or am I misunderstanding?

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Accountability in a community 12/29/2015 at 8:08 AM

I agree with the majority of your well thought out article. There is a lot to fix in the city of Richmond and it can’t all be tasked to law enforcement. It’s also refreshing to hear a perspective that is not based on someone watching a season or two of Law and Order or taking a sociology course at the local community college.

Where you lose me is the hints of a conspiracy between illegal guns and drugs in an urban setting and the profitability of incarceration. The new city jail doesn’t hold more people than the old jail. Arguments could be made by victims across RVA that it should house more people. In addition 100,000 people will be released from federal prison for “nonviolent” drug offenses in the next couple years.

The city is focused on “alternative sentencing”. This second chance approach costs a city more in a variety of ways. When you hear of someone shooting a child look at the offenders arrest history. Should they even have been out on the street….Put a price on that.

In my humble opinion, guns and drugs all come down to choices and accountability. When I walk into a bank I don’t take the money and run just because it’s there..Stay away from conspiracy and focus on people doing what’s right..

There are over 300 million guns in the US. They are in every neighborhood. Remember what makes a gun illegal. You don’t need a license for a gun in RVA. Being a felon in possession of a gun or being in possession of a gun with schedule I or II narcotics are the most common charges that make a gun illegal.

Choices

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dontmincewords 12/29/2015 at 8:22 AM

Absent black father is a thing in large urban areas. I wish I could remember the stat, but when I live in LA, XX% of black fathers were incarcerated or convicted felons with few options. Not sure about our census tract. Could just be a chicken/egg situation. Mom turns to drugs because she has no partner helping raise the kids. A local social worker would probably lend more insight than my anecdotes.

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James 12/29/2015 at 11:59 AM

Will, Great article overall and thanks for sharing with us. But I would like to make a few points.

You are a little off about your knowledge about guns.

You use the term “illegal guns” very loosely and at times incorrectly. Keep in mind that an illegal gun is “illegal” for only certain reasons. This could be from the following:

1) An automatic weapon (full auto or 3 round burst, without proper registration)

2) A weapon with a silencer (silencer without proper registration).

**Keep in mind that these two weapons above DO need registration because they either 1) have a silencer or 2) are an auto weapon. Assault “style” rifles or semi-auto hand guns do not fall into these categories. AR-15’s and AK style guns no matter the magazine or drum size are legal to own without permits or registration

3) Firearms with serial number altered or removed

4) Weapons that are registered as stolen.

You also speak about “licensed” guns. For the record, the only guns in the state of Virginia that need to be “registered” are the ones stated above (silencers and automatic variants).

It is “legal” for anyone to sell a gun to another person in the state of Virginia as long as they “believe” the buyer is a resident and they “believe” buyer is not a felon.

You are right that guns are easy to get. I can go on Virginiaguntrader.com and buy hundreds of guns, magazines and ammo within a days’ time with no formal registration process. There are MANY MANY MANY guns out there. So getting rid of the gun is not an option.

You stated, “it’s a mystery to me on how so many unlicensed, untraceable guns and drugs makes its way into the East End”.

1) Once again, no guns are licensed in Virginia unless they are auto and have silencers (actually just the silencer is registered)

2) All guns are “untraceable” unless they have a GPS devise on them or you are walking through a metal detector and or being searched. There is a paper trail when a firearm is purchased through a dealer, but not with a private party sale. That is why it is “recommended” (not required) to get a bill of sale when purchasing or selling firearms. Basically, it covers your butt.

Readers and new residents to the neighborhood, just wait until New Year’s this year if you are in doubt about the weapons in the neighborhood. “Newby’s” to the neighborhood you will hear gunshots, and it’s probably not safe to be outside between 12:00-1:00 on New Year’s Eve. Every year its free fireworks and I’m grateful I don’t have a metal roof on my house. You will clearly hear the rapid bursts of full auto 30/40 round magazines spit into the sky…

The rules, regulations and assumptions about firearms are not always fully understood and sometimes it’s good to clarify those misconceptions or misunderstandings.

Once again you’re article was a great read and I enjoyed reading it. I would love to see more posts from you in the future.

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PTG 12/30/2015 at 4:24 PM

I want to concur with Matt Hillian and others on one of the biggest, and easiest, action steps from this: get involved in supporting the neighborhood. There are SEVERAL entities that could benefit from volunteers, giving resources, and supporting financially (I’m happy to meet with anyone to talk about that last piece, Paul.Granger@CHATRichmond.org, especially if you’re all about that year-end giving.)

I worked for about 5 years at The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club. They’ve had a presence in the community since the 20’s, and have been located at 3701 R since ’71. They have staff that have worked there for 3 decades. They have impacted generations of families, often with limited resources and few hand. Why not volunteer there once a week?

I shared a similar sentiment on an article about MLK, and it’s worth repeating; let’s continue the dialogue, but let’s not stop at dialogue. If every CHPN reader gave even one day out of the month to support one of our local organizations, it would be HUGE. If every CHPN reader gave even a small year-end gift to one of these entities (and they all could use it), it’d be a blessing. Let’s keep talking, but let’s also get moving.

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