Ravenell joined other community leaders and residents at the Orangeburg City Gym on Sept. 27 to discuss efforts to transform the city and county in the wake of deadly gun violence. It was the second monthly gathering.
Ravenell said gun violence is “not all on me. This is a community problem.”
“Our kids are dying and we are worried about who’s getting credit for the good things, not the bad things,” he said.
Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Director Charles Austin Sr. also spoke of the role of the community.
People are also reading…
“Community equity policing, it’s shared responsibility where you, as the community, quite frankly, take the lead in terms of determining the standard of acceptable conduct in our communities,” Austin said.
“Our role, of course, is to be there to ensure that our laws are enforced and that we maintain order and that we serve and protect,” he said.
The effort to bring together different organizations, agencies and stakeholders, “Reminds me how much we need each other. We truly need each other,” Austin said.
“We know that you as a community expect us to serve with integrity and our commitment to you is that we will serve with integrity,” he said.
Dr. Natashia Smith, executive director of the Orangeburg Area Mental Health Center, talked about the violent loss of her son, 25-year-old Trevor Sumpter, back on June 18 in Barnwell.
Smith recalled getting a phone call late on a Friday night from someone telling her that her son had been hurt and that she needed to come to the Bamberg-Barnwell Emergency Medical Center in Denmark.
When she got there, she was met by her son’s girlfriend, who said to her, “He’s gone.”
“At that point, I lost my train of thought. I didn’t know where I was. I heard, ‘He’s gone.’ I tried to process that. I tried to figure out why,” she said.
“What did my son do? Why would someone kill my son?” she recalled asking herself.
Sumpter was employed by the Barnwell YMCA. He was a swim coach, Smith said.
He also worked for the city of Barnwell’s recreation department as a coach for multiple sports leagues.
Smith said she didn’t understand why someone would shoot and kill her son.
She said Sumpter was cleaning up a park in Barnwell following a Father’s Day event when he decided to head to a nearby gathering and speak to a co-worker. The gathering was for his co-worker’s wife and Smith said her son wanted to take a moment to be at the celebratory gathering.
Smith said her son, “Never walked anywhere, he either jogged or he ran.”
She said that as Smith likely jogged or ran to the gathering, someone shot him.
The shooting suspect surrendered to law enforcement in the days that followed, she said.
Smith said that during the arraignment, the suspect allegedly turned to her and said, “Ma’am, I’m so sorry. I’ve never seen your son a day in my life. I didn’t even know who he was. I thought he was somebody else. I am so sorry I killed your son.”
Smith said she responded, “If you didn’t kill my son, you were going to kill somebody else’s son.”
Smith told the crowd at the Orangeburg meeting, “This has to stop. This has to stop. I don’t know what message we need to send.”
“When you kill one person, you kill the whole family,” she said.
After taking some time off from work, Smith returned, noting it was difficult for her to concentrate as she coped with grief.
“I said to myself, ‘The doctor needs a doctor. I need to get right. I can’t function. I’ve lost my child for nothing,’” she said.
Other presentations at the meeting included:
• Orangeburg County School District Director of Student Services Hayward R. Jean announced recruitment efforts continue in the districtwide “One Child, One Chance” mentoring program.
The program is geared toward at-risk students in the school district.
Jean encourages individuals, faith-based organizations and community leaders to consider volunteering as mentors.
To apply as a mentor and learn more details about the One Child, One Chance initiative, visit this link: https://www.ocsdsc.org/Page/7936
• Latisha Walker, CEO of the non-profit Tiffany Grant Foundation, discussed the importance of motivating students to pursue post-secondary training and degrees.
Walker, a retired agent of the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, noted that she never arrested anyone for armed robbery who also had a bachelor’s degree.
The TGF provides blankets to local law enforcement agencies so officers can distribute them to individuals in need of them.
The organization also works with Claflin University, S.C. State University and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College to help students with basic hygiene needs.
Walker also noted that organization provides some essential items to students and their families at the request of the Orangeburg County School District.
For more information about the Tiffany Grant Foundation, visit: https://tiffanygrantfoundation.org or look for it by the same name on most social media platforms. The organization is located at 1401 Charleston Highway, Orangeburg.
• Community activist and S.C. Department of Corrections retiree Geraldine Miro recalled a recent incident when her niece returned her vehicle after taking her children to school one morning.
As her niece exited the vehicle, a gunman put a weapon in her face and took off the vehicle.
“We are a community, we are family. I don’t care what we look like. I don’t care where we come from, we are family and we don’t do that to each other,” Miro said.
“This has got to stop,” she added.
She urged communities to establish crime watch organizations and to report suspicious incidents to law enforcement.
She also encouraged parents and adult role models to interact with area youth.
An October meeting about transforming Orangeburg will be held at the Orangeburg City Gym later this month. The focus of this month’s meeting is mental health. Presenters will discuss the importance of getting proper treatment for mental health concerns and destigmatizing mental illnesses.
For further information about the monthly community meetings, contact the Rev. Jerome Anderson, pastor of Unity Fellowship Church in Orangeburg, at 1-803-682-4919.
Contact the writer: email@example.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD