Diversity leaders discuss St. Louis’ gun violence dilemma at DEI Conference

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From Feb. 27 – March 1, Webster University held its eighth annual D. This year’s theme was “Focusing on Next-Level Equity in a Time of Transition.” 

A multitude of topics was discussed throughout these three days, one of which was gun violence.

“The question is not if [a shooting] is going to happen; the question is when,” Kelvin Adams, the former superintendent of Saint Louis Public Schools, said. 
Panelists discussing at “The Ripple Effect.” The conference featured panels on a variety of themes, including immigration, public education and challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community. Contributed photo from Webster University. 

Adams was one of three panelists who spoke at “The Ripple Effect: Gun Violence, Community Trauma, and Healing,” the DEI session held on March 1 led by Muthoni Musangali, Webster University’s chair of professional counseling.

In this session, panelists discussed the impact of gun violence on communities, focusing on the St. Louis metropolitan area. Reflecting on the root of the issue, they illuminated instances of gun violence that didn’t make the news and urged listeners to take action. 

One of the panelists, James Clark, vice president of Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis’ Division of Public Safety and Community Response, reflected on the lack of news coverage on gun violence in poorer neighborhoods.

“Gun violence has always been at the crisis level, but it did not prick the consciousness until there was a mass shooting,” Clark said. 

Clark went on to talk about the testimonials he receives from people in these poorer neighborhoods and how, despite the immense tragedy of losing a loved one to something like a hit-and-run, those stories never seem to make the light of day in the news.

Steven Player, vice president of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for BJC Healthcare, discussed the emotional weight that healthcare providers carry for caring for the victims of mass shootings. 

“We have healthcare providers that are seeing this again, and again and again,” Player said. “When you’re retraumatized on a daily basis, how do you effectively come in and care for those individuals in their dire state, without any lens of bias?”

Each panelist came from different careers and industries, yet they all were in sound agreement about the severity of gun violence in St. Louis, as well as the steps toward eradicating it – which they claimed include going to high crime-rated neighborhoods and providing resources directly. 

Part of the work that Clark does at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, for example, is to go directly to these homes and provide connections and resources for children in low-income homes who are at risk of going down a pipeline toward a possible life of crime.

This was a refreshing approach to student Eden Rolves, a Webster freshman.

“A lot of the time, discussions around complex issues consist of general agreements that the situation is bad, but [this discussion] was very much centered around taking action,” Rolves said.

This session provided insight into the reality of gun violence in St. Louis, as well as ways to effectively reduce it.

Gun violence is not something that can be eradicated overnight, but this goal can be progressed through the efforts put forth by people working in social services such as Player, Adams and Clark.

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