Andrew and I were slated to be the last act on the indoor stage for Art All Night 2018. Sadly, a shooting incident cut short the festival, and the door to the stage area was marked off as a crime scene. This would have been our third annual appearance at the event, a community festival badly needed in an often troubled, fiscally depressed city. How troubled? Five of my former students (Sheree Davis, Jeri Lynn Dodson, Jermaine Johnson, Shamere Melvin, and Shakir Williams ) have been shot dead in the past few years. I would mention, as a Trenton-area native, that Trenton is no longer the city it was when I was a child. The decline began in earnest when James Earl Ray’s actions incited a riot in our city. Trenton has long been in need of federal intervention and has suffered from many years of poor leadership, underfunding, poor tax base, and suburban flight.
A former student from and (very) short-time fellow teacher at the high school in Trenton where I taught for many years, Jerrell Blakely, who was quite recently elected councilman-at-large, stated in this morning’s Trenton Times:
“There is a tendency when a tragic event occurs to pull back and retreat, but I think Trenton has to show the world that we won’t be frightened,” he said. “We can’t allow folks that mean us harm to change such a beautiful event.”
I disagree with Blakely’s naive remarks. The perpetrators are gangbanging criminals, not terrorists. In my opinion, this tragedy WILL have a frightening effect on would-be festival attendees. Art All Night’s reputation as a family-centered affair has been seriously and possibly irrevocably tarnished. The people of Trenton have a serious crime element embedded in their midst; this city of primarily respectable citizens needs to remove this surly element from their midst.