Jenice Armstrong: Shocking blacks into action against violence

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Nicholas "Sixx" King donned a KKK costume last week to draw attention to the epidemic of black-on-black violence.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Nicholas "Sixx" King donned a KKK costume last week to draw attention to the epidemic of black-on-black violence.
Posted: February 15, 2013

I'M SURPRISED that Nicholas "Sixx" King didn't get his butt whupped last week when he walked through Center City in a Ku Klux Klan costume.

King did it to dramatize the fact that the No. 1 killer of black men in America isn't a racist hate group such as the KKK. It's other African-American men.

Let's be honest. We've gotten used to the idea of young black males killing other young black males. In fact, we're almost numb to it. When it happens, there's a collective shoulder shrug. Life goes on. The murder rate continues climbing.

King, who is promoting his anti-violence documentary "Mothers of No Tomorrow" wants people to get worked up about this topic, and, seeing how that's next to impossible, he went for shock value.

King, who's pretty widely known around town, is never one to be shy about being seen, even in KKK robes and a cone-shaped hat. Still, this latest publicity stunt topped everything he's ever done, including crashing both the Grammys and the MTV Video Music Awards.

"The Ku Klux Klan is no longer the primary killer of African-Americans. It's been outsourced to a subculture of young black men," King said afterward. "There's . . . a lot of mitigating factors of why it's happening. But definitely, the number one is self-hate."

Yo, but walking through Center City in a KKK robe?

"A lot of people, when they saw me in the costume, they didn't know if I was black or white because they couldn't see under the costume. They had an instant disdainment for the costume, for the robe," he recalled. "For me, I say, 'If you have that disdainment for a wardrobe, it should be extended to a subculture of people who are perpetrating that ideology on a day-to-day basis in the community. I want African-Americans, liberals, to have that same disdainment when we hear about a senseless murder.' "

Don't we? I asked.

"We, as black people, we don't do it," asserted King, whose previous projects include a relationship book and a stint blogging for Essence magazine.

Hard to argue with that, when you consider Philly's no-snitch culture and the problems that law enforcement has trying to get witnesses to cooperate. President Obama addressed the issue of gun control during Tuesday's State of the Union address, but it's high time for black folks to get proactive on the issue ourselves.

"This is a problem that only we can solve internally," says Chuck Williams, an associate professor at Drexel University and director of the Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence. "While it was not created by us, we are the only ones that can resolve it.

"It's almost like having someone else come in and tell you how to raise your kids," Williams added. "It shouldn't be the job of the government. That's the mother's and father's jobs, the neighborhood's and the community's."

As he talked, I couldn't help but remember how, in 2007, the then- police commissioner issued a call for 10,000 black men to help patrol the streets of Philadelphia. That movement largely went nowhere.

Last fall, community activist Bilal Qayyum organized a black-violence conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center attended by anti-violence experts from around the country. He plans to share their recommendations with 70 community activists. His goal: to create a national movement to prevent black-on-black violence.

"What Sixx did last week, I thought it was pretty creative," said Qayyum, who's also president of the Father's Day Rally Committee. "I know the point he was trying to make.

"Externally, we have to challenge the American system and the American image of black males," he said. "Internally, we have to challenge ourselves about our negative behavior, which leads to America's image of black males. To me, that's the struggle now."

And if it takes dressing up in a KKK costume to shock people into paying attention to the issue of black-on-black violence, then so be it.


On Twitter: @JeniceAmstrong

Blog: philly.com/HeyJen

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