- Associated Press - Sunday, September 24, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) - As founder of the Columbus Black History Museum, Johnnie Warner noticed a disturbing trend in the black community.

“… Prior to the end of the Civil Rights Movement, there were so many lynchings and killings of the black males by the whites,” he said. “And here we are now, we’re still living in fear - but because of us.”

To address the issue, Warner launched a “Cain and Abel” memorial project in 2016 to denounce black-on-black crime in the community. He started by collecting the name of every local black person killed by someone of their race from January 2013 to December 2015. The list has 57 names.

But it doesn’t include those killed among the 26 homicides of 2016, or the 26 homicides that the Columbus Police Department has already recorded for 2017. Muscogee Coroner Buddy Bryan puts the number at 32, because he does not differentiate between a homicide that police consider a murder and one they categorize as manslaughter or a justifiable shooting.

Many of the victims included in those numbers are young black males allegedly killed by their peers.

Of the 26 homicides recorded by police so far in 2017, 21 were black males, three were black females, 1 one was a Hispanic male and one was a Caucasian female, according to Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.

“We have 25 murders via gun violence and one via automobile,” the mayor said. “We have 14 murders related to domestic violence, fighting, drugs, robbery or pending investigation and 12 related to gang activity.”

Warner recently posted a message on Facebook in the wake of recent killings, asking people to add the names of others who have died since 2015. And he posed the question: “Am I my brother’s killer?”

“The Cain and Abel Memorial is a list of Columbus, Georgia, and Phenix City black Americans murdered by black Americans since January 2013,” he wrote. “The vision is to one day (engrave) these names on a monument to inspire the next black generations to value black lives and communities. These saints are sacrificial lambs as a memorial of black-on-black homicides, crime, and terrorism. They did not die in vain. Their lives matter too! They were slaughtered by the hands of their brother.”

Following that introduction, Warner listed the names of all 57 victims, starting with Charles Foster, who was shot to death at the now-defunct Club Majestic in 2013 on New Year’s Day; ending with Christopher Twitty, who was killed Nov. 21, 2015. In an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, Warner said he got the names from the Columbus Police Department.

After posting on Facebook, Warner received comments from relatives of people killed as a result of black-on-black over the past few years. One woman, Vicki Scott, said she was related to number 13 and 55 on the list - David Scott and Dominic L. Mitchell, respectively.

Referring to Mitchell, she wrote: “… Glad to see his life was not in vain Johnnie Warner. Keep up the good work. Maybe someday our brothers will understand that it is nonsense taking people’s lives. It destroys families. How can we fight about other races killing blacks when (we) are the main cooperate (culprits) of the genocide of the black race. Wake up and let’s stop the killing of our RACE.”

About Walker, she posted: “When I look at the list my nephew #13 David Scott also was killed by black men. He left behind 3 sons that needed their father.”

Suzette Ragland, the mother of Deonn Carter, a beloved autistic man killed in 2016, also responded.

“Mines was in that # and the saddest part is he was handicap,” she commented. “… It’s sad. I pray for these families.”

Warner said he decided to develop the list after Scott’s sister, Shavon Tolbert, approached him about doing something to help stop the violence. Tolbert had formed an organization called “Brother’s Keeper Foundation,” which organized a community rally.

“We marched, and then I said like this, ‘If we put out there how many murders have happened, how many blacks have killed each other, that should make people think first,” Warner said Monday. He considers Cain and Abel an appropriate analogy because of the circumstances surrounding the Biblical story.

“The reason I call it Cain and Abel is because Cain killed his brother, and he killed his brother over jealously, really,” he said. “And as blacks, we call ourselves brothers and sisters, right? But when it comes down to it, our ego gets involved, like Cain’s ego got involved, and what did he do? He slayed his brother.”

Warner said he knows some black people will be offended by his comments, but he believes the issue needs to be addressed.

“There are families out there, especially grandparents, who are attending to their children,” he told the Ledger-Enquirer. “Some of those parents and the grandparents are hostages in their own homes. Some of them are living in fear of their own children and grandchildren, but they’re afraid to say anything because of embarrassment.

“These children have become so unruly,” he said. “… It starts in the home. If you disrespect your mother and your father, you go to school and you disrespect the teacher. But as soon as you hit them streets, you disrespect a man with a gun, he’s gonna take you out.”


Information from: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, https://ledger-enquirer.com

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