Leslie Robinson speaks during a community meeting.
The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
Most of Toledo's 22 homicide victims this year have been black.
Of the total 16 cases with black victims, nine have named suspects, all of them black. One additional case, the shooting death of Travis Johnson by an off-duty Walbridge police officer, was ruled justifiable by the Toledo Police Department.
Tuesday, all homicide victims will be honored during the National Day of Remembrance for Murdered Victims, but the event will focus on black-on-black crime, coordinators said.
“If you look at what's going on in Toledo, it's black-on-black crime,” said Leslie Robinson, whose son was was shot to death on Cone Street in 2005.
A total of six victims this year, in Toledo, are not black – three are white and three are Hispanic.
Mr. Robinson said there are a number of factors, in his mind, as to why so much of the violent crime – not only in Toledo but across the country – leaves blacks, especially young men, wounded, dead, or behind bars.
“To me it goes way back. There was a time in the black community where you were raised by the neighborhood,” he said. “The mother down the street had permission to spank your butt and you got spanked again when you got home. A lot of that has been taken away from the community.”
Mr. Robinson also said the woeful state of the economy has taken away resources and recreation for children, leaving them bored and presenting more opportunity for trouble.
Family dynamics are different now too, he said.
“You've got grandparents raising kids now instead of mothers and fathers raising kids. Mothers are out there on drugs on the street. Fathers have not been part of the family's life. Gang members say, 'I'll give you that love that you've been missing,' and I think primarily that's what you're getting,” Mr. Robinson said.
In August, Mr. Robinson, who for years was president of the local chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, spoke to a group of men who police said are known gang members.
He told the men, most of them black, about what it was like to lose his son and how important it was for himself – who decades ago was abusing drugs – to get clean and be the best father he could.
He begged the men, for him, for his wife, for his son – his only child – to stop the violence.
“It was heartfelt,” he said. “ … I spoke from my heart. I raised my son – what I did is called a miracle in the middle of the inner city and that's to raise a young man who got in no trouble, who everybody seemed to have loved.”
Mr. Robinson's son, Dionious Robinson, 20, was even known as “the peace maker.”
Art McKoy, a Cleveland man and founding member of Black on Black Crime Inc., is expected to speak at the event Tuesday.
McKoy said the organization, which focuses on work in Cleveland and the metropolitan area, was founded 35 years ago with the intentions of only being around for a few years.
“We didn't realize we'd still be in business 35 years later. We didn't realize it would still be this bad,” McKoy said.
McKoy said homicide rates in Cleveland skyrocketed in the early 1970s, but fell in the early and mid 1980s. But when crack cocaine was introduced to the streets, homicide rates went up again and, this time, the victims were much younger. After cocaine, he said, it was heroin and ectasy.
It only got worse when guns became readily available.
“They made guns where they could be as accessible as crack cocaine so they could be accessible to our community,” McKoy said. “They made it so a young person who has no business with a gun can get a gun quicker than he can get something to eat. You have all these guns in the hands of irresponsible young people … and so as long as we have all these guns in the inner city, flooding it the way it is, we're going to have this violence.”
Mr. Robinson said, to make the streets more peaceful, the community has to get involved.
“For so long we've gone into our churches and prayed and said 'Please make things better,' but we've got to come outside of that church. We have to be the ones to do it.”
“I'm not going to stop,” Mr. Robinson said. “I'm going to keep going until I'm gone.”
The remembrance event is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and last for an hour at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, 4227 Bellevue Rd.