Pastors, city officials and other Chattanooga community leaders gathered last Friday on the steps of city hall to commemorate National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Many who attended the 10:30 a.m. event wore orange as they stood together to honor the lives of people affected by gun violence.The national Wear Orange campaign seeks to raise awareness about the issue.
“We all must take a stand against gun violence,” said District 9 City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod, one of the featured speakers for the event. “Families are hurting. The effect of gun violence on our communities is pervasive, long lasting and impacts everyone uniquely.”
The Rev. Ternae T. Jordan Sr. of Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, as well as other religious leaders, labeled Chattanooga’s rising gun violence a health crisis.
“The reason we say it’s a health issue is because of mental illness, poverty, the lack of opportunities,” Pastor Jordan, who has funeralized 105 young people killed by acts of violence, explained.
“You cannot lock up poverty, you cannot lock up mental, we cannot arrest our way out of it. When violence happens to a community, you bury one person, but the family is walking around in a spiritual death.”
In 1993, Pastor Jordan’s family became the unintended victim of gun violence. His son, Ternae T. Jordan Jr., was shot in the head by a stray bullet at a YMCA in Indiana as he was innocently waiting for his mother to pick him up from a piano lesson.
Against all odds, Ternae Jr. survived his childhood shooting. Now 42, he serves as the assistant pastor, alongside his father, at Mt. Canaan Baptist Church.
Mayor Tim Kelly read a declaration to join cities across the country in proclaiming June 4th, 2021 as National Gun Violence Awareness Day. He pledged to put an internal team together to come up with a new community approach for addressing Chattanooga’s gun violence.
This comes as the city sees shooting incidents almost double compared to this time last year, including instances where the victims and suspect are minors.
According to Chattanooga Police Department Communications Coordinator Elisa Myzal, there have been 12 fatal shootings in 2021, which is the same amount as this time in 2020.
However, the city has had 25 more non-fatal shootings (59) than this time last year (34).
Some other community leaders attending the National Gun Violence Awareness Day event: Rev. Kevin Adams, Pastor Steve Ball, Betty Maddox Battle, District 9 Councilman Anthony Byrd, District 7 Councilwoman Raquetta Dotley, Anabel Garner, Rev. Bobby Hamptom, Thomas Harper, Rev. Gary Hathaway, “Uncle Joe” Hunter, Alvin Jackson, Rev. Ron King, Harry Knox, Rev. William Ladd, Deborah Maddox, Rev. Bernie Miller, Ruben Muriente, Tennessee Department of Corrections Officer Ivan Patten, Rev. Ernest Reid Jr., Troy Rogers, Rev. Chris Sands, Tedarrell Scott Jr., Chattanooga Assistant Police Chief Glenn Scruggs, Rev. Kevin Wallace, Chattanooga Police Sergeant Greg Wilhelm, Rev. Carlos Williams, Rev. Jeffrey Wilson and members of Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence.
National Gun Violence Awareness Day originated when 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton of Chicago was killed just days after performing at former President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
It is now observed nationally on the first Friday in June.