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Frank Gray

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Foundation One runs Unity barber shop on Pontiac Street as a gathering place for those in need of mentoring.

Kids suffering effects of gun violence

It was a Saturday evening in mid-July when a man walked up to a group of people in front of a house on Gaywood Drive and opened fire. One of the people shot was a 3-year-old girl.

About three weeks later, a fight broke out at a late-night party on Oliver Street and people began exchanging gunfire. Only one person was injured – a 3-month-old baby inside a nearby home.

A few days later, a 13-year-old riding his bicycle past a church on Warsaw Street was shot by someone in a passing car and critically wounded.

Shootings have grown more numerous in Fort Wayne over the last two or three decades, but the events of the last few weeks appear to be opening a new chapter in the city’s history of gunplay. Now it seems more children, toddlers and infants are the victims.

It’s a scary thought.

But, I wondered, how is the community reacting? Is this a turn of events that will cause the masses to rise up and say, “Enough!”

I paid a visit to a guy named Foundation One who runs the Unity barber shop on Pontiac Street, a sort of business/gathering place/ministry, to get his take. Is this just a series of bad events, or has it gotten to the point where kids getting shot is just something that happens if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Foundation was bluntly honest.

“If this happened in any other community, they’d be having community meetings,” he said. “But there are no meetings here. Nobody’s inviting gang members to talk.”

The community, Foundation said, is numb. “They don’t have jobs. They have bills to pay. They’re just trying to stay alive.”

In paradise, the events might be appalling, but kids getting shot on the streets and in their homes is just another worry stacked on top of the other problems that people have to deal with.

Foundation talks about what he’s seen. He’s cut the hair of 26 young men who have died in violence.

I asked whether he was discouraged. After all, for years he’s counseled young people to control their anger, to have aspirations to go to college, to have careers.

But the ugly side of life hasn’t diminished.

No, he says. He pointed to a tree and asked whether the tree is discouraged. Of course it’s not discouraged, he says. It’s just there.

That’s his job, he said.

“My job is to just be here to help those who ask for it. I’m not negative or positive. I just do my work.”

His work, by the way, is to teach young men critical thinking and to control their anger.

“When anger takes over the demons come in, and the demons take over and make it even worse,” he said.

And a person gets in trouble, “and they go to court and they cry and say they’re sorry, but that’s the human talking. But the demon isn’t sorry.”

Several young black men approach, take seats, and Foundation welcomes them and explains that he’s talking about the shootings in which children have been hurt.

Well, one young man said, the children shouldn’t be outside. It’s a stunning viewpoint, but he explains that people are targets because they had started something and put their kids at risk. Sometimes, one young man said, you gotta do what you gotta do.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Foundation said.

He stands up and begins to talk loudly, “And as soon as the Europeans put the cuffs on you, you’ll be crying Mommy, Daddy, God, Jesus, do something, but you’re going to the penitentiary.”

He looks at the young men and tells them one by one, “if anything happened to you, your mother couldn’t handle it, your mother couldn’t handle it, your mother would have a breakdown.”

Then Foundation steps away to cut some hair.

We really didn’t deal with the issue of children getting shot, but Foundation got to make his point with a handful of young men. Let’s hope they take his advice to heart and others conclude that children deserve to be off limits.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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