Roy Exum: About ‘Speak No Evil’

Monday, December 16, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

“Snitches get stitches” is what we learned yesterday when the Chattanooga Times Free Press included an unprecedented 8-page section in its Sunday editions that peeled away one sordid layer after another on our city’s tragic black-on-black shooting epidemic. The marvelous work, entitled “Speak No Evil,” explains in a bold way why a staggering 58 percent of 300 shootings in Chattanooga since 2011 remain unsolved with no arrests made.

Even better, the epic coverage by writers Joan Garrett McClane and Todd South revealed how Mayor Andy Berke’s administration will utilize an initiative similar to what brought about a huge change in High Point, N.C., in a quest to find a common-sense solution in “a city where it’s not hard to shoot a person, even kill someone, and get away with it.”

In all the years I’ve read and studied Chattanooga newspapers, I have never seen anything to equal “Speak No Evil” and I believe it is a journalistic masterpiece. It took an exhaustive nine months to prepare, with more than 150 people interviewed, countless hours of study and research, and dogged determination by many other staffers, photographers, media experts and graphic designers.

Candidly, I have grown tired and callused of reading one story after another of gang members who seemingly ignore poverty and illiteracy while flagrantly shooting each other to pieces but I was so inspired by the newspaper’s achievement I believe it ought to be “required reading” in every junior high and high school in our region. It will become an invaluable tool for our city’s progress and its future.

The lead story centers around the desperation of Shondra Mason as she tries to find out who shot and killed her 18-year-old son, this just three years after he was shot in the stomach and steadfastly refused to assist any police investigation. There is an unwritten code in Chattanooga’s black community where any witnesses “don’t remember,” “don’t know,” or “didn’t see anything.”

The reason is harsh – the black community doesn’t trust the police. Instead the gangs dispense their own justice and the violence has become a top priority for Mayor Berke’s leadership team in its corporate-like approach to government. Now we know why the “worst of the worst” roundup just netted 32 criminals who definitely don’t need to be on the streets.

Now we can see what the next steps might be in building an aura of mutual respect, where churches and other groups can actually help those on the fringe to “join normal society like the rest of us. Get a job. Raise your kids.”

The newspaper, taking a hero’s step in the effort to confront the horror, will sponsor a “Forum on Race, Reconciliation and Truth Telling” this Thursday at the Bethlehem Community Center. Located at 200 West 38th St. near the Alton Park community, the meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and will address the divide between inner-city residents and the Chattanooga Police Department, as well as other law enforcement agencies.

“We expect the conversation to be honest and raw and perhaps uncomfortable,” the newspaper’s editor, Alison Gerber, wrote in her column yesterday. “It may not look pretty, but it is necessary.

“Shootings don’t happen in most Chattanooga neighborhoods. And it’s easy to look away, to say it’s not my problem and it doesn’t affect me. But when lives are being senselessly lost, when people are suffering,” she wrote, “it’s a newspaper’s responsibility to find out why.”

Pam Sohn, the Times Page Editor, pointed out in her Sunday editorial, “We really have two cities – the Chattanooga we aspire to be, and the Chattanooga so divided by race and poverty that the boundaries are even geographical” and she is right.

Part of her editorial read, “… Mayor Berke has put money and work on a problem that largely has just gotten lip-service from past administrations. Berke has even allocated money for the services of a special federal prosecutor.

“Berke says he knows the effort must be a sustained one. One or two roundups will make a dent, but replacement criminals will bloom and flourish if concentrated surveillance wanes … We have to do this and keep doing it, Berke says. And he’s right. Along the way,” wrote Sohn, “we’ll have the opportunity to knit our two Chattanoogas into one.”

Lookout Valley Has A Right To Want A Different Commission Make Up

I haven't followed the rift on the County Commission as close as I'd like to. I'm still playing catch up with so many articles out there. Most recently, I've read where Lookout Valley citizens are asking for a revote for chairman. Before that, it was about the grandstanding at the last meeting. Somewhere in between Roy Exum chimed in making, what I consider, a sexist remark about ... (click for more)

Greg Martin Is Clear Choice For District 3 County Commission

As chairman of the Hamilton Count Hamilton County Republican Party, I want to encourage everyone to get out and vote in the important election, especially if you live in the Hixson community where voters will pick a new District 3 county commissioner.  This particular race is unique given how state law dictated the process for electing the next commissioner. The guidelines ... (click for more)

Domestic Assault Charge Dismissed Against Bobby Stone In Case Involving Mayor's Top Advisor; Stone Says Berke Had Inappropriate Relationship With His Wife; Says Berke And Fletcher Conspired To Arrest Him; Lacie Stone Says Charges Completely False

A charge of domestic assault was dismissed Friday morning against Bobby Stone in a case involving a top advisor to Mayor Andy Berke.  Afterward, Mr. Stone told reporters that the mayor had an inappropriate relationship with his wife, Lacie Stone. He also charged that Mayor Berke and Police Chief Fred Fletcher conspired to arrest him. Mr. Stone is expected to file ... (click for more)

Christopher Padgett Taken Into Custody

A Chattanooga man who went on the lam after cutting off his ankle monitor and failing to show up for the third day of his felony murder trial is back in custody. Christopher Padgett was arrested by Chattanooga Police in the 3200 block of South Street at 12:55 a.m.  He was taken into custody without incident and transported to the Hamilton County Jail for booking. ... (click for more)

Briarcrest Beats Baylor For D-II Volleyball Title

MURFREESBORO – The 2016 volleyball season didn’t end like the Baylor girls would have liked, but they have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of after getting beat by Briarcrest in the D-II Class AA state final here at MTSU’s Murphy Center Friday afternoon. The Lady Saints had beaten Baylor in a winners bracket final on Thursday and proved it was no fluke as they won in three straight ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Advances To Class AA State Final

MURFREESBORO – Never accuse the Signal Mountain volleyball team of ever doing anything the easy way. The Lady Eagles, who entered the TSSAA state tournament here as a possible favorite to win the Class AA division, started off the tournament on the wrong foot Wednesday as they lost to defending champ Sullivan South in their first match. They staved off elimination with a 3-0 ... (click for more)