Posted by richard on March 01, 2000 at 21:11:06:
I tried to write this letter to you last night, but the level of
sadness in me would not allow me to sit at this keyboard
and compose these words.
How much more can my hometown take? How much more
do the people we love have to suffer? How much? How
much?? HOW MUCH!
Isn't it enough that tens of thousands of lives in Flint have
been wrecked, destroyed by the greed of General Motors?
Isn't it enough that my wife and I and tens of thousands of
others who love our home -- love it more than any of you
will ever know -- have had to leave Flint in the past 20 years
to find work far from family and friends? Isn't it enough
that Flint suffers the highest or near-highest per capita rates
of murder, rape and theft in the nation?
What else do the people of Flint have to go through while
the rest of country mouths the propaganda of the evening
news claiming "the economy is the best ever!"? The top 10
percent just get richer and richer and the next 30 percent of
you keep the CNBC stock ticker on your screens all day
and toss out all sections of the daily paper but the pages
that tell you how well your portfolio did yesterday.
I thought there was nothing else left for Flint to go through.
Like Job, it seemed that every imaginable sorrow had been
visited upon its people. I guess I was wrong.
I look up at the TV and a helicopter is hovering over a
school while the words "Buell Elementary" flash on the
Buell? Buell! At the end of "The Big One," when I twisted
Nike chairman Phil Knight's arm to match my $10,000
contribution to the kids of Flint -- that $20,000 went to
Yesterday, a 6-year old boy brought a semi-automatic gun
to that very school in Flint and killed a 6-year old girl in
their first grade classroom.
Six years old.
A little girl whose name was Kayla Rolland.
That's about the only thing the national media got right
about the story. Twenty satellite trucks now ring the school,
but with all that technology, they cannot find the way to
bring you the truth. Of course, they have been spun and
snookered by the local officials in Flint who try to hide
from the responsibility they share in Flint's destruction any
time a tragedy like this happens.
You have probably heard that this school shooting took
place out in the "suburbs," in a place called "Mount Morris
Township"... "somewhere near Flint."
There is no such place.
Buell Elementary, where the shooting took place, is in the
Flint Beecher school district, the poorest school district in
Genesee County, Michigan, and perhaps the poorest in the
entire state. Eighty-two percent of its children, according to
the federal government, live below the "official" poverty
level (meaning the number of kids in total poverty is even
Beecher is Flint's dump. It is where you go when you have
nothing left to your name. 60 percent black, 40 percent
white. No municipality in Genesee County wants to govern
Beecher, so it exists as a No Man's Land on the northern
city limits of Flint. It covers a small portion of two different
townships (one of which is where my wife Kathleen is
from). But folks, when you hear the word "township" used
in the case of Beecher, those of us from Flint mean it in the
way the word was used in South Africa. Buell Elementary
in the Flint Beecher school district has a Flint address and a
Flint phone number, but the black officials from Flint on
the news yesterday tried to point out that "this school really
isn't in Flint!" It is amazing how deep oppression takes its
roots when even black leaders find themselves in bed with
General Motors and, like Peter in the Garden of
Gethsemane, repeatedly deny that people of their own race
have anything to do with them.
Poor, poor Flint. The media blowhards babble on about
how "this is the youngest child to kill another child in a
school shooting" and the few anchors who started to look
at their own helicopter shots showing the school sitting in
the middle of a bombed-out neighborhood commented that
"this is actually the first of all these school shootings we've
had lately that has taken place in an 'urban' school." Wow.
Two records for Flint in one day.
When I was a senior in high school, the assistant principal
of Beecher High -- the first black man in the area to hold
such a position -- became despondent over his inability to
quell the racial disturbances in the school, so one night he
went home, wrote a heartfelt letter to the kids in the district,
then put a gun in his mouth and blew his brains out. As my
friend, Jeff Gibbs, who went to Beecher, told me last night,
it's sad that the only two times that Beecher receives the
attention of the nation is because of a gun. (Jeff's letter to
me can be read in full by going to
I heard from relatives last night that the family of the little
boy who killed the girl had been evicted from their home
just last week. Evicted, I wonder, by Deputy Fred, who 10
years after "Roger & Me," still spends his day at the behest
of Flint's landlords.
Homeless and fatherless (his dad is in jail as 30 percent of
all black men in America will be at some point in their
lives), the boy was staying at his uncle's. In the house were
guns, as there are in virtually every home in this devastated
and desperate area. The gun, that the boy found and took to
school, was not some "junk gun," the kind that Al Gore
promises to get rid of. It was a gun with a brand name
bought initially at a sporting goods store (I wonder, were
the bullets bought at K-Mart, as they were at Columbine?).
How do Mr. McCain and Mr. Bush feel this morning? Just
seven days prior, John McCain's "Straight Talk Express"
bus rolled past Beecher on I-75, but it didn't stop. It rolled
on down near Ann Arbor where McCain blasted those who
seek gun control, saying that he opposes ANY ban on ANY
assault weapon, and opposes ANY waiting period for a
background check when one purchases a gun. Mr. Bush
never stopped in Flint either.
I guess we all feel sorta proud that they both avoid us like
the plague. There is not -- and has not for nearly thirty
years -- been a single Republican state or federal
representative elected from Flint. Another reason, I
suppose, for our neglect and punishment. But we're proud
of how we've made it almost a crime to support a
Republican in Flint, proud of the fact we elected the
country's first black mayor in the '60s, proud that we voted
for Jesse Jackson 9 to 1 over Michael Dukakis in 1988
(and 4 to 1 for Jesse in Flint's all-white suburbs). So I
guess the gun crazy presidential candidates made the right
decision to take their hate-filled campaigns elsewhere. And,
in the end, I was proud to see that the people of Michigan,
like the people in Minnesota, have kept their sense of
humor intact as a way to express their sense of outrage. 51
percent of those who showed up to vote in the Republican
primary were Democrats and Independents! They took the
time to go the polls to plunk down for McCain just to, in
good ol' working class fashion, stick it to the Bush with the
silver spoon in his mouth.
I'll end by repeating what I have said many times before --
the handguns have to go. 16,000 gun murders last year in
the US and 15,500 were killed by someone they knew
(husband, boyfriend, neighbor) or by someone at work.
Approximately 500 were killed by a stranger who broke
into their home and 300 of those were killed by their OWN
gun. Those are the facts. Easy access to guns by a species
that often responds irrationally and with intense emotions is
a lethal combination. Great Britain, a nation of 60 million
people with a violent history of conquering the world at the
barrel of a gun and now full of drunks and hotheads who
eat up violent American movies and TV shows -- last year
they killed a grand total of 12 -- that's TWELVE! -- of their
own citizens with handguns. That's because handguns are
TOTALLY banned. Let the hunters keep their rifles after a
serious background check, but the handguns, whose only
purpose is to take a human life, must go. The Brits have
done it, the Australians have done it, the Canadians have
done it. Even New York City mostly did it -- and the
number of murders there has dropped from 2,200 a year to
We look like a bunch of idiots. Let's do something about it
and about the poverty in which so many kids still dwell.
We have never been in a better place to make it happen than
What are we waiting for? Another Kayla Rolland? God
help you if you ever have to live in a township that no town
will claim and is forgotten by everyone else as soon as the
next gun nut enters a McDonald's and a Burger king on the
same day. Fried or flame-broiled, it's all our own unique
On behalf of the six of us from Flint who work on The
P.S. -- If you would like to contribute to the Kayla Rolland
Memorial Fund please send donations to:
Kayla Rolland Memorial Fund,
c/o Calvary Assembley of God
2518 Delaware Avenue
Flint, MI 48506
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