Reeling from a violent weekend in North Columbia where two men were killed and three more were injured, residents Tuesday night packed a public-safety forum that was part church revival, part gripe session and part brainstorming period.
The meeting hit an emotional pitch several times, especially when Tanyua Slater, who lives at the Martha Street home where a 21-year-old was gunned down Friday night, expressed her frustration and grief.
“Not one time has any of y’all knocked on my door and said, ‘Ms. Slater, Is there anything I can help you with?’ I’m mad. I’m mad. I’m mad at y’all,” Slater said to police officers as she slammed the microphone onto a table. “Some strange person has violated my house. They came in my yard.”
The forum, which ran well past its designated two hours, was organized several weeks ago by the North Columbia Business Association. The association had invited several Columbia police officers and representatives from housing and codes enforcement to offer tips to clean up North Columbia and improve safety.
After such a violent weekend, the crowd had little interest in talking about garbage roll carts being left on sidewalks or vacant lots that need grass cut. Instead, they demanded action from city leaders to stop the rash of violence that is plaguing the city.
North Columbia residents especially were frustrated over the perception that the city cares more about Five Points and other entertainment areas than their neighborhoods. Five Points has been the focus of attention because of an increase in gun violence.
“While people in the hospitality districts can go home to safe environments, we cannot escape the violence,” said Sabrina Odom, director of the North Columbia Business Association. “We need change. No more excuses.”
Robert Wylie, a 30-year-old who grew up in Greenview and who is Slater’s son, said he was fed up with city officials always talking about help but never providing it.
“This talk is crap,” Wylie said. “We don’t have the resources we need. There are a lot of brothers from the North Columbia community who don’t like what is going on. The things I was trying to prevent came on my front porch. Stop playing with my people and my community. Let’s do something. This is no joke.”
Tears also flowed when two young people — one male and one female — stepped up to the microphone to admit their participation in gangs and then offer their pledge to do better and help the community change.
Shuron Malone, 18, said he had left his gang but still had contacts with his old friends. He offered to do whatever was needed to help others leave the lifestyle. His voice trembled as he spoke, and people in the audience whispered encouragement as he talked.
“I’ve done so much bad to the community,” Malone said. “I apologize to everybody. I’m trying to change.”