First off, as an Ypsilanti resident let me say that Ypsilanti is a very safe city. My family and I have lived in Ypsilanti since moving here from Flint in 2004. The spat of gang related violence that spilled into the downtown area last summer was a bit disconcerting, I admit, but I feel that it was an isolated event. Still, as in many other communities across the country, gang related deaths remain an issue.
The Ypsilanti Interrupters group is made up of local residents who are volunteering to go door to door in city neighborhoods like the one I live in with my wife and kids. Local volunteers are handing out information packets on how to help stem the spat of gang violence in the city. This is great and important work but the question is, what is the root cause of the violence?
When I think about gang violence in Ypsilanti I can't help thinking about our affluent neighboring city a couple miles to the West. Whereas Ann Arbor is affluent, Ypsi is socioeconomically more like a typical American city in what is referred to as the Rust Belt. Because Ann Arbor is affluent they have the financial resources to provide all kinds of after school and summertime activities and options for young people. Furthermore, because in general Ann Arbor residents have more disposable income, their kids can take full advantage of all the expensive summer and after school programs and opportunities available to them. That's great, but its not fair. I don't begrudge Ann Arbor parents and kids for having so many wonderful after school/summer programs and opportunities. The issue is that Ypsilanti parents and kids should have the same options and opportunities in our community. It strikes me as ironic that affluent communities like Ann Arbor have far more options for young people even though the need is much greater in other communities such as Ypsilanti or my hometown of Flint. Don't Ypsi kids deserve the same affordable opportunities? I think so.
Young people need jobs and they need things to do. In Ypsilanti these can be challenging in a city that has struggles economically like many other cities. I don't mean to excuse gang violence solely on a lack of opportunity, but I will say that lack of jobs and and a lack of varied and affordable programs and activities for kids in the summer doesn't help.
Editor in Chief
Purple Walrus Press