Shawn Williams’ Dallas Morning News Column: Black on Black Gun Violence

Here’s a gun violence column that I wrote for Dallas Morning News’ Sunday Points section. It’s already available online and Trey Garrison also wrote a column on the same subject which now available as well.

Trey and I often have a running version of Point/Counterpoint going on our blogs, but I figured we would probably see this one about the same way. Thanks to Sharon Grigsby for the opportunity.


(I don’t pick the titles but this one isn’t too bad)

Too often, African-Americans cover their ears when the talk turns to black homicide rates. Yet the statistics are beyond alarming: Blacks make up nearly half of this country’s murder victims, and nine out of 10 times those deaths are the result of a black hand squeezing the trigger of a gun.

It’s time that we talk about — and better understand — the factors at the core of the black-on-black violence that exists throughout the nation.

Some groups are doing just that. Projects like CeaseFire in Chicago, where community leaders intervene in conflicts and promote alternative solutions to violence. In the Dallas area, Vision Regeneration focuses on violence prevention, gang intervention and youth rehabilitation.

But the problem is not unique to South Dallas or Chicago’s South Side. Black neighborhoods all across this nation are wrestling with the same reality. The plots presented of life in Los Angeles by John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood and in the Baltimore of David Simon’s The Wire exist in America’s largest cities and smallest towns.

Places such as Washington D.C., Philadelphia and San Francisco have tried to intervene by instituting various gun laws. But the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down key parts of a D.C. weapons ordinance are proof that government policy cannot be counted on to solve the problem. Nor should it be. The answer lies elsewhere.

Maybe the book Outliers is the place to start. There, author Malcolm Gladwell revisits the violent feuds of the Appalachian Mountains that resulted in the death of hundreds of men and made the Hatfields and McCoys part of American lore. Sociologists found that a “culture of honor” was at the root of what seemed only to be a series of misunderstandings and property disputes.

Similarly, I would argue that a “culture of disrespect” exists among African-American males — a disrespect for authority, disrespect for women and disrespect for one another.

It’s almost cliche to point toward the music industry and its glorification of violence to illustrate this truth. Disregard and incivility are as much a part of today’s urban music as the T-Pain voice effect. Hip-hop stations support their listeners by offering free gas and school supplies with one hand, while using the other to slap them down with provocative misogynistic lyrics.

Some of our best community advocates work for — or are associated with — these stations. They should be leading the fight to clean up the airwaves.

More than anything, we must teach black boys from birth to respect other black boys and black men. But first these youngsters must learn to value their own lives, which may aid them in decisions they later make in regard to others.

Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X were murdered because of the difference they would have made if they had continued to live. Today, young black men are killed because their assailants feel that it makes no difference if they die.

Especially because of the absence of men in so many youngsters’ lives, adults must pay careful attention to interactions between boys, starting in preschool. It’s important to teach them early to respect personal space and to be mindful of when to keep their hands to themselves. Yes, boys will be boys, but smacking a friend in the head today could lead to punching him in the mouth a few years later. The next time somebody could pull out a gun.

Also, civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and National Action Network, should strengthen their local organizations to address the violence in the very communities that they are charged with serving. They should show the same contempt for juvenile misconduct as police misconduct.

There have been instances — such as the Dunbar Village public housing rape case in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2007 — in which civil rights groups have claimed that black-on-black violence is “outside the scope of our mission.” If that is indeed true, it’s high time for an updated mission.

The fight for equal employment opportunities, equal salaries and equal access to education is as important as they have ever been. But none of that matters when a young man is shot and killed on his way to work or school.

To suggest that African-Americans are born with some sort of natural proclivity for violence — as many white supremacist and hate groups claim — is absurd. But as was the case in 1800s Appalachia, we must look carefully below the surface if we are to comprehend the senseless violence that plagues 21st-century black America.

Most of all, we cannot solve the problem if we refuse to acknowledge that there is one.

Great Blogging While Brown Recap Video

Here’s a cool video which was recently posted on the Blogging While Brown website that recaps some of the presentations and panels that took place.  I’m not just promoting it because I have a cameo at the beginning, there’s some good info here.  Hopefully this will inspire some folks to attend next year who weren’t able to make it to Chicago.

Thursday’s Bloggers Bunch interesting to say the least

Thursday’s Bloggers Bunch on CNN was interesting to say the least.  One of the bloggers on the show was Lurita Doan of  Lurita went out of her way to criticize the President, and Black folks seemingly, during our discussion of race.  I wanted to follow up to a couple of her points during the show, but I had no such luck.  I like it better when there are three guests on instead of four because we get a little more time to establish our points.  Let me know what you think.

Video: Shawn P. and CNN Bloggers Bunch discuss passing of Michael Jackson

It was sad discussing the passing of Michael Jackson on CNNcom/Live today, but it was made easier by seeing two friendly faces on the screen with me.  Those were Carmen D. of All About Race, and Lola Adesioye from

Here’s the 15 or so minutes that we discussed our thoughts on the King of Pop, what his music meant to the world, and how the discussion has played out since his death.

Shawn P. on CNN Live (online) Friday to discuss death of Michael Jackson

On Friday at 11 AM Central, I will be on CNN Live (online) where we will talk about the life, death, and legacy of Michael Jackson. Central. We were originally scheduled to talk about CNN’s Black in America, but the topic obviously changed after the tragic news regarding the King of Pop.

Click here or the link above to go to the site.

Shawn Williams: A Beale Street model for Deep Ellum

After I wrote this article I thought, wouldn’t a Johnny Taylor themed restaurant look good in Deep Ellum (or South Dallas)? Some of ya’ll entrepreneur types should be able to take that one and run.

Anyway, here’s the article I wrote for the Dallas Morning News almost in its entirety. To see the few parts I didn’t paste, click here. Thanks to Sharon Grigsby for the space.


To borrow a phrase from legendary musician Robert Johnson, Deep Ellum has the crossroad blues. The path toward the future may mean taking a look back.

With the possible exception of the city’s preaching tradition, the blues scene in the early part of the last century represents the biggest mark left on this city by African-Americans. But the community is letting that rich history die by allowing the place where it all went down to lose its soul.

It’s part of a trend nationwide where the African-American community neglects history that is not intimately tied to the civil rights movement. This is even more pronounced in our city, where not only is the history ignored, it’s all but forgotten.

Deep Ellum should be the same type of cultural destination as the 18th and Vine area of Kansas City, which houses the American Jazz Museum and Negro League Baseball Museum. First, that means residents would have to acknowledge – and in many cases, learn – the district’s rich history before embracing it and rallying for its revival.

Consider this: In 2003, the South Dallas/Fair Park Entertainment District Study was presented to the Dallas City Council. The document (now in the hands of a local nonprofit) proposed creating a mixed-use retail-commercial development that would market particularly toward African-American conventioneers, tourists and local residents. This concept was modeled after Beale Street, a thriving three-block section of downtown Memphis, which consists of a number of nightclubs and restaurants. Beale Street was home to a thriving blues scene at the turn of the 20th century before becoming a collection of closed shops and rundown buildings in the 1960’s.

Sound familiar? The infrastructure for this model already exists – in Deep Ellum.

The Dallas City Plan Commission recently recommended the issuance of a specific-use permit for a live music bar and lounge to open in the old Blue Cat Blues in Deep Ellum. A soul food restaurant also moved into the neighborhood in recent weeks. While every business in the area doesn’t have to be blues-themed, a nod to the heritage would go a long way toward reviving the entertainment district that seems to always teeter between “struggling” and “on the verge.”

Any plans to revisit the history of Deep Ellum should include the redevelopment of The Grand Temple of the Black Knights of Pythias Building. The Pythian Temple sits on the edge of Deep Ellum and was the first commercial building in town built by and for Dallas’ black residents. It’s also one of the few Dallas structures other than churches designed by a black architect. The building that housed the city’s first black dentist and surgeon would make a great business incubator for a new generation of professionals and entrepreneurs.

Second Avenue and a little blues music could bind two historic parts of our city.

Again, click here to see the entire article.

Dallas South to celebrate 3rd Blogiversary at Bishop Arts Theater on June 12th


Shawn P. Williams

cordially invites you

to join in a special night

celebrating the

Third Blogiversary of

Dallas South

Friday, the Twelfth of June

Two thousand and nine

Eight o’clock in the evening

Bishop Arts Theater Center

215 South Tyler Street

Dallas, Texas

Kindly RSVP by June 8th

On Saturday June 12th, Dallas South will celebrate our 3rd anniversary at the Bishop Arts Theater Center in Dallas. Since we celebrated our 2nd birthday at Brooklyn last year, Dallas South has attended the DNC Convention as a credentialed blog, appeared as a weekly Ranter on Channel 8, and appeared in the Toronto Star, BBC, Quick, and D Magazine.

Help us celebrate this wonderful year on what promises to be an exciting night. We’ll also talk about Dallas South News, our nonprofit news venture.

All are invited and welcome to attend but seating is limited, so it’s important that you RSVP if you plan to attend. To do so, leave a comment on this post, or email I’ll have more information about this exciting event as it becomes available.

Williams’ welcome new member to Dallas South Family

My wife and I are the proud parents of a healthy baby girl: Maliyah Faith Williams.  Maliyah was born at 5:13 p.m. and weighed 7 lbs and 8 oz.  She and mother are both doing well.  Big brother Isaiah has been smiling for almost 24 straight hours.

Thanks so much to everyone for all of the prayers that were offered to Tamela during her 7 weeks in the hospital and 7 weeks at home on bed rest.  She sacrificed so much to bring this little baby in the world.  Words cannot express my love nor gratitude.

Thanks to the Dallas South family who has given me plenty of latitude and support through this rough time.  I’ve tried my best -through the help of the crew- to keep the site on track. I think we accomplished that and then some.

Again, thanks to the fam and God Bless.