CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - When Charlotte recorded its highest number of homicides — 122 in 1993 — the local chapter of 100 Black Men of America launched a billboard campaign to address the violence. Nearly 30 years later, after another record-setting year of homicides, the organization is bringing back the same campaign.
On Monday, 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte re-launched its Stop the Violence effort to help reduce the rise in homicides in the city. The organization primarily mentors young Black men, but spokesman Johnathan Hill said the group decided it wanted to address how many of the victims fall into that demographic after last years deadly spike.
The campaign consists of 34 “provocative” billboards across the Charlotte region as well as a series of community panels, according to 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte’s website. The group also hopes to partner with the city to connect people to violence prevention resources and also hold community listening sessions.
The billboards were expected to be up by the end of Monday, Hill said.
The messages on the billboards, splashed against a black background, read: “Our Pandemic. Together we can cure the violence,” “We can’t all rise. If we’re not all here” and “We’re losing the Black race.”
The victims tended to be young Black men. According to previous reporting by The Charlotte Observer, nearly 80% of the victims were Black, over half of the victims were under 30 and separately, male.
According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Charlotte has seen 18 homicides this year. A year ago at this time, there were 21 homicides.
Hill said the organization hopes that everyone— not just those living in high-crime neighborhoods — will find inspirations in the billboards to discuss violence.
“We wanted to make sure (the billboard) resonated with them from their specific perspective in their view from the youngest child all the way up to someone sitting in the boardroom somewhere,” he said.
The billboards were made possible by a donation from Adams Outdoor Advertising, Hill said.
100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte also is hoping to act as a central hub for resources for young Black men and will be partnering with the city and county, he said. The organization is also planning a series of community panels and listening sessions and increasing mentoring sessions on deescalation and conflict resolution.