By STEPHANIE MYERS and JAN PERRY
Black Women for Positive Change
During the last two weeks of March and first week of April 2021, Americans were shocked with alarming news of mass shootings and violent attacks in Atlanta, Georgia; Boulder Colorado; Washington, D.C.; and York County, South Carolina. Out of the 20 mass shootings and violent attacks since March 1, one very distressing element stands out – a number of the attacks were carried out by GenZers [14-24 years] and millennials [25-38 years], from diverse racial groups, and regions of the United States.
For example, on April 7 in York County, South Carolina, 32-year-old millennial and former NFL Player Philip Adams committed a mass shooting of a renowned local doctor, his wife, grandchildren and two workers. Early reports say Adams, who later committed suicide, suffered from football related brain concussions. On April 2 in Washington, D.C. 25-year-old millennial Noah Green rammed his car into two Capitol Hill officers killing one and injuring the other.
Reports from his family indicate Noah was suffering from prescription drug use, paranoia and depression. He was killed at the scene of the violence. On March 18, 21-year-old GenZer Robert Aaron Long, killed eight Asian spa workers and their customers, at massage parlors in Georgia. He claimed sex addiction as a reason for his behavior. And on March 22 in Boulder, Colorado, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, and killed 10 people at a grocery store. His relatives and schoolmates say Alissa was bullied in school for being Muslim and retaliated with anger.
These four young men who perpetrated violence were from diverse racial groups, and in different regions of the country. But, what they had in common was they were either millennials or GenZers who were obviously suffering from serious mental health issues. What was being done to help them? Where were their parents, mentors, faith leaders, aunts, uncles, social workers, colleagues, etc.? Did they have trained support or, were they dealing with their crisis mostly alone?
Generation X and baby boomers in America have to stop being self-absorbed and start paying attention to depressed GenZ and millennial individuals. According to the 2019 U.S. Census reports, these groups now make up the largest age-based demographic groups in the United States. These young people know how and where to purchase guns, how to make guns using 3D technology – known as ghost guns and they are strongly influenced by video games, violent movies, aggressive sports and even aggressive relatives who commit domestic violence.
Research by the Anne Casey Foundation finds that GenZers are suffering from high levels of depression, and this must be taken seriously. Plus, they are impacted by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Armaud Arbery, many more Black men and women…
But, how can Generation X and baby boomers help Millennials and GenZers who are suffering from anxiety, COVID lockdowns, student debt, job loss and other societal factors? Since taking office, President Joe Biden is starting to focus on these issues. On April 8 the president and Attorney General Merrick Garland, announced a series of executive orders designed to stop violence and promote violence prevention. Their plan will target grants for communities, to mobilize violence prevention programs. These actions are to be applauded but, it is important that the programs be implemented effectively, with feedback from affected communities of color.
Black Women for Positive Change, a national multi-cultural, inter-generational network of women and Good Brothers, has sponsored 10 years of Annual Weeks of Non-Violence. During those years, we have heard a multitude of stories from participants about causes of violence, depression and anxiety. We have found that many GenZers and Millennials suffer from lack of parenting, mentorship and productive, engaging activities. We have also found stigmatization of mental health and fear of families of color to seek help for disturbed youth. In addition, our outreach informs us that millennials and GenZers complain about lack of opportunities and dreams for their futures.
Therefore, it is important for the Biden administration to factor in the need for “Opportunities” in violence prevention programs to assist youth with overcoming the obstacles of the COVID-19 pandemic, job loss, single headed households under pressures and other issues. New approaches are needed to provide GenZers and millennials with opportunities to move forward, overcome obstacles and have productive, positive lives.
Dr. Stephanie Myers is national co-chair of the Black Women for Positive Change. Jan Perry is chair of the social action committee for Black Women for Positive Change. They can be reached through http://www.blackwomenforpositivechange.org.