While recently discussing another matter with the New Pittsburgh Courier, Community Empowerment Association CEO Rashad Byrdsong mentioned that the attention given to the murder of the Wolfe sisters, especially in terms of media reports and police investigatory power, stood in stark contrast to level of importance attached to the far more numerous killings of young Blacks.
“It’s almost like a slap in the face. I think it’s a disparity that needs some attention,” he said. “I’m not the only one talking about this either.”
That was an understatement, at last count more than 3,000 people including families of Black murder victims, whose cases are unsolved, have said as much by joining the “We Need Justice Too!!!” Facebook page, set up by Autumn Perkins.
The father of Perkins’ three children, Laron Howard Sr, was fatally shot July 21, 2013. She does not want his case forgotten. His case remains unsolved, as are those of many who joined the page. “I was watching the news one day and for a solid hour, it was nothing but ‘Wolfe sisters,’” she said. “And there was a killing in the Black community that same day that got no attention at all. So that’s why I started the page. The last time I checked there were over 3,300 members and it’s only been up two weeks.”
One who joined is Wynona Harper of Penn Hills. Her son, Jamar Hawkins, fatally shot near the intersection of Saltsburg and Frankstown Roads, after leaving Giant Eagle, in November. She is holding a vigil there March 13, which would have been his 32nd birthday.
Harper said she is appalled by the difference in treatment between the Wolfe sisters’ case and her son’s.
“They showed us what they could do with that East Liberty case, and it was appalling to us with all the African-Americans being killed out here. I have a problem with that,” she said. “My problem is my son goes into a store to by some lettuce and gets shot five times. They executed him, and there’s no arrest, no jail. No one said they saw anything—but they know. “
Asked if she thought more cooperative neighbors or residents might have been the difference, Harper said no.
“The difference is they were prominent White women,” she said. “Low-income African-American people, they don’t give a damn. They should be ashamed.”
Sonya Toler, public information officer for Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Safety, disagreed.
“The difference is the news media has paid more attention to the Wolfe sisters,” she said. “We pay the same attention to every homicide and what determines success is the evidence found.
There are times where people in the Black community are very supportive, and when you see that you see success in those investigations.”
Perkins said she will be at Harper’s vigil, and that her next step is a meeting for the group and its supporters at the Homewood Library on March 20 at 5:30 p.m.
“I hope to see everybody there. Saving lives and getting justice is worth the drive,” she said. “If we keep waiting, we’ll get nowhere. That’s the problem now.”
(Send comments to cmorrow@newpiuttsburghCourier.com.)
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