Ending violence

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 19, 2006

Group seeks solutions to problems in black community

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

Franklin Fortier was driving down Water Avenue early Wednesday evening when a bullet entered his vehicle.

“The bullet missed my head by maybe an inch – maybe an inch,” Fortier said. “Why would anybody do that?

“To me, that’s a wakeup call.”

Fortier shared this story with peers at the Brother To Brother Organization meeting Thursday night at Amosa International Cuisine on the corner of Franklin Street and Alabama Avenue.

The organization meets at Amosa each Thursday at 6 p.m. The public is welcome.

Created by Fortier and Kindaka Sanders, Brother To Brother’s mission is to create a dialogue of what’s going on in Selma’s black neighborhoods to spark positive change.

For four weeks, concerned residents have gathered to discuss key issues that are plaguing Selma’s black community – mainly drugs and gun violence.

Cliff Albright, the meeting’s facilitator, began the night’s discussion with the Jan. 2 shooting that killed 19-year-old Andrae Norwood, found shot in the back on the corner of Martin Luther King Street and Minter Avenue.

Following the shooting, members of Brother To Brother went to strike up a conversation with Norwood’s peers, asking them what could be done to help stop the violence in their neighborhood.

“They said, ‘We’re tired of this. We want peace.'” Albright said.

Residents say they are scared to come out of their houses, forced to live with nine-millimeter pistols next to their beds because people are “walking around with guns as if it’s the Wild Wild West.”

These areas are along Martin Luther King Street and St. Phillips drive, considered a “hot spot” for gang and drug-related shootings.

Meeting attendees brought their ideas to the table.

Some thought creating economic and educational opportunities for young black males would do the trick, while others stressed citizens of these communities need to see senseless shootings as a cause worth fighting for and reclaim their neighborhoods.

Fortier said there is “no easy solution” to stopping street violence, but Brother To Brother will take the necessary steps to create safe and positive communities.

Other organizations in Selma are taking notice of Brother To Brother’s work. The Black Belt Community Foundation is considering awarding a grant to Brother To Brother.

BBCF Field Service Representative Florence Williams liked what she saw and heard.

“I have favorable things to say,” Williams told Fortier.