GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — 84-year-old Acie Jillmore made his way from the South working in fields picking cotton, to Benton Harbor picking strawberries, to Grand Rapids, where he ran a laundromat on Alger for 20 years.
He lives in a neighborhood surrounded by violence. The most recent deadly shooting in Grand Rapids happened just a few blocks from his home.
“So many kids got guns now,” Jillmore said.
For Acie, this is nothing new. He says in his eyes, kids need better things to do with their time. He says a good place to start would be all the "help wanted" signs in windows.
Jillmore says when he was a teenager, he worked. Hard work, too, he added. Acie recalls a time when he was hit upside the head with a gun for not picking cotton fast enough. Never knowing his real family, Jillmore says families need to step up too.
“They run with the wrong bunch; they pick up their ways too,” Jillmore said.
Just a few city blocks away from Acie's house, Pastor Jerry Bishop shares his sentiment. The kids in their neighborhood, the third ward, need something positive to do with their time, and close by, too.
"Unfortunately it’s a culmination of a lot of events. Poor relationship building. Poor resource allocation, then, poor accountability. It’s a tragedy that in our beautiful city, there are very few positive outlets that are ongoing. I think is what of greater concern is this crisis that is not foreign to us. It’s a condition. It’s a condition of profound un-mental wellness. We are not mentally well. We are all ill-equipped and not prepared, simply because there is a lot of generational and institutional disconnection,” Bishop said.
Violence, as explained by Cure Violence, a harm-reduction program Grand Rapids has implemented, is systemic and indicative of larger problems in an area.
“We don’t have healthy outlets; we don’t have healthy relationships. I think one of the things our world-class community needs to get away from is that the outreach, or the effort to help those that are challenged, falls on the shoulders of a small percentage. This is everybody’s city. It should be everybody’s problem,” Bishop said.