When the victim is 8 and just playing with her dolls when a stray bullet comes through the window and kills her, adults want someone to blame. They want something to change. They want to scream at something.
The Rev. Stephen E. Young Sr. screamed at the neighborhood. Chelsea Cromartie was the 30th homicide victim Young helped bury this year. She was killed May 3 a block from his church. He gathered up a group of men, maybe a hundred, to march. They marched to Huntwood, Lincoln Heights. The neighborhoods had nothing to do with Chelsea's death, police say, but Young was so angry he had to do something. The best he could do was flood the neighborhoods where crews scrawl their names on cinderblock walls and protect their corners with gunfire.
"This isn't a protest, it's a plea," Young preached at the march. "I'm pleading with these young men in these neighborhoods to stop. They don't have to live like this. This isn't about rec centers or youth programs or more police. This is about a mind-set."
Mayor Anthony A. Williams screamed at parents: "The missing people we've got to find are the missing people in the lives of the children who allowed this to happen."
Terrance Johnson-Bey, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for the area where Chelsea died while visiting her aunt in Northeast Washington, screamed at city government. Where are the job programs, after-school activities and late-night basketball leagues that can give gun-toting kids something better to aim for? "We need better resources so our kids have something to do instead of hang out, chase each other around and shoot each other. All kinds of resources in this country are going to the war when we have terror right here on our own streets."
Chelsea's mother, Takisha Cromartie, has replayed the night thousands of times. She couldn't do anything about the kids firing guns on the street (two brothers, Raashed and Ricardo Hall, have been charged with first-degree murder in Chelsea's death). She has no say in government programs for troubled youths. But she could've left for home a little earlier. She could've sat in front of the window instead of on the couch. "We were just about to leave. . . . If only we left a few minutes earlier. . . . If only that bullet hit me."
-- Petula Dvorak