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? Six of my former students (Benjamin Davilla, 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.