- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

Talk about dreaming "the Impossible Dream." Don Quixote doesn't have anything on the District's David C. Bowers, Nizam Ali or Alicia Horton. This thirty-something trio forms the heart, body and soul of "No Murders D.C.," a volunteer crew with the impossible dream of realizing a "Murder-Free D.C." by 2005.
You've got to be kidding, right? Wasn't the District once dubbed the nation's murder capital? Didn't the homicide rate increase 16 percent in 2002? Aren't the police predicting escalating violence as a result of the rise in PCP use? No matter to NMDC.
"Will the story be simply a numbers game, a sensationalization of whether murder is up or down, or will the focus be on the ability of citizens, individually and through institutions, to act in tangible ways to prevent murder in our communities?" asks Mr. Bowers.
Will it be the same old same old story of "just lives lost or lives saved as a result of channeled righteous indignation?" he asks.
The No Murders D.C. cadre is quick to note that they are not attempting to reinvent the wheel or replace the myriad anti-crime initiatives already in place. Their aim is to act as a catalyst, a connector and a voice for a collective consciousness.
"We're not starting an organization, we're starting a movement," said Mr. Bowers during an intense lunch hosted by his University of Virginia classmate, Mr. Ali, of the District's fabled Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street NW.
"We start with the premise that one murder in our city is one too many, and that the resources necessary to end murder in the nation's capital exist already within the city," said Mr. Bowers.
First, you have to change the way folks think. This means, "We cannot accept murder as the price of living in the city," he said. "We have to say that we will not tolerate murder here that there will be no place you can hide and that [being involved in crime] isn't cool." Second, we cannot continue a business-as-usual mentality whenever a person is killed, regardless of where they live or who they are.
"When someone is killed, we ought to stop everything and go down to the town hall and say 'This is not right,'" Mr. Bowers said.
The critical question that must be posed, this very-serious trio contends, is not what they can do to stop the perpetual killing, or even what you can do to help them attempt to stop the killing. Rather, they seek to engage the entire populace to assume responsibility for helping to end the bloodshed.
"We want everyone to ask themselves what they are willing to commit to do on an ongoing basis to stop murders," says Mr. Bowers. Everyone public officials, businessmen, clergy, labor unions, youth groups and even go-go bands can do something, whether it's mentoring or monitoring or simply meditating, to incorporate the goal of eradicating murder as a part of their lives.
The vision for this consciousness-raising group came to Mr. Bowers, a program manager for the Housing Investment Trust, while he was sitting in church three years ago.
"God put it on my heart to do this and I put it aside, but I couldn't find peace in my life because I knew this was something I was supposed to do," he said. It comes down to a fundamental value of whether "life is valuable and should be affirmed and protected."
"It doesn't have to be a humongous thing either," Mr. Ali said.
The core group, which meets every month in the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, is trying to establish itself as a "bridge" between officials and community organizations.
Armed with ongoing research and street-outreach efforts, they are concentrating their efforts in Wards 1, 4, 7 and 8, which are experiencing a disproportionate number of homicides. They have met with police officials and community liaisons as well as with Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
They are also meeting with other organizations to discover successful solutions that they can duplicate.
No Murders D.C., which blanketed the targeted areas with their leaflets on a very cold and wet Christmas Day, will be passing out memorial fliers during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday at locations where last year's killings occurred. They will also be making recommendations during the mayor's upcoming citywide crime forum scheduled for Jan. 25 at Eastern High School.
Mr. Ali, well known to those frequenting Ben's Chili Bowl, is sporting a black "No Murders D.C." T-shirt. He talks about friends calling him from other parts of the country who worried about his safety during the fall sniper spree. "I had to tell them that this is everyday for us, and the sniper is gone, but nothing's changed," he said. Further, he is most troubled about black-on-black crime.
"The problem is that it's us killing us," Mr. Ali said.
If the police can marshal their resources to catch one sniper, Mr. Ali noted, why can't they reduce crime consistently? The trio agrees that residents must push their elected officials to make sure that the police have all the crime-fighting tools they need, including more officers and detectives on the street. Meanwhile, they want folks to assume personal responsibility for crime prevention.
Mrs. Horton, a lawyer who works for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence as the director of the education division, provides charts on the homicide rate and a startling statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicates the number of years of life lost each year to homicides in the District is 7,512.
"Just think of the economic impact of that alone," said this Northwest parent, whose husband found a discarded handgun in their front yard one morning. It was later determined that the weapon had been used in a nearby shooting.
Mr. Bowers passionately listed other "impossible dreams" realized.
They said you had to be crazy to think you could put a man on the moon, end apartheid in South Africa or eradicate polio. Yet, John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela and Jonas Salk, respectively, were crazy enough to help accomplish these missions.
"We're crazy enough to think we can end the blood bath in D.C.," he said. "We say that all it takes to change the world is one person who has a vision and someone who commits to that vision. All it takes is one plus one and you."
Mr. Bowers can be contacted through [email protected] yahoo.com. A Web site will be available later this month.

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