LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After a record-breaking year of homicides, Louisville church leaders called on city officials and the community to commit to change in 2021.
Pastor David Snardon, of Joshua Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, has spent much of 2020 ministering to crime victims and planning their family members’ funerals.
“A number of members or people that I’m close with have family members or friends who have been shot,” Snardon said. “I’m sitting with them and their pain and helping them through their pain. When that kind of violence hits, it has a ripple effect that doesn’t just affect the immediate family, it affects all of us. We can’t ignore it because it affects us one way or another.”
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Louisville had recorded 171 homicides in 2020, the most in the city’s history.
The local pastors said violence has always been an issue; this year it was exacerbated by the pandemic. They told reporters in order to make a change, people must address the root of the problem -- systemic injustices within Louisville.
“Louisville should not be surprised at what we’re seeing,” Pastor Frank Smith, of Christ’s Church for Our Community, said. “Our mayor commissioned a study that that unearthed redlining. Redlining. What color is blood? Red.”
Smith said the redlined communities, or areas that have been systemically denied goods and services because of discriminatory practices, have been stripped of good infrastructure and resources like ones for mental health, legal and financial assistance.
The coalition of church leaders called on Louisville Metro officials to reinvest in those areas of the city to ultimately help reduce the rate of violence.
“It’s deeper than just telling people don’t kill one another,” Smith said. “When we’re saying deal with this violence, it’s not a surface thing. There has to be a commitment that goes deep and deals with the realities, and until we face the issue head on, we’re going to continue to see these symptoms.”
“People are choosing to do wrong because they don’t have a lot of choices to do right,” Snardon said. “If we want people to do better, we’ve got to give them better choices, better models, better outlets to put their energy in. And if we don’t start addressing giving people better choices, we can’t expect anybody to do anything different.”
The pastors said they hope to help the city create a comprehensive plan to address the violence. They already have met with city-led groups like the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, and plan to meet with more next year.