Published: Oct 28, 2009 02:00 AM
Modified: Oct 27, 2009 01:56 PM
Marcia Owen flips through the Google maps. Each page shows the area around Shepherd's House United Methodist Church at East Main and Driver streets, where she works.
Five red dots show the homicides since January; 22 red dots, the killings since January 2006.
"These are all drive-bys," Owen says, pointing to several dots. "Last night we had a vigil for a 17-year-old Latino man on Liberty and Herbert. He and a bunch of kids were just standing outside this house."
Owen runs the Religious Coalition for a Non-Violent Durham. It holds a candlelight ceremony for every person killed by gun violence in Durham.
"I guess what I keep struggling to try to communicate is how exposed communities are to do this," Owen says. "It's in front yards. It's in church parking lots."
This is an election year, and you don't hear the candidates talking much about gun violence. But Owen says it's an economic issue. She read a study that said 70 people move out of a neighborhood after a homicide.
Owen lives with the violence, even if the closest she's come personally is having her home broken into. She shrugs it off. It's nothing compared to the stories she's heard. Nothing compared to her son's best friend, who was accidentally shot in the throat while he and another boy were looking at a revolver.
"Oh, Ms. Marcia," he told Owen. "I've got two lives. I've got my life before I was shot, and I've got my life after I was shot."
In addition to vigils, the coalition sponsors faith teams for prisoners re-entering society. They meet with the ex-convicts, sometimes weekly, to support their return to the community. Of 33 participants, only three have gone back to prison, and all after relapsing into drug use, Owen says.
As we walk around the neighborhood, Owen talks about "restorative justice." Like South Africa's truth commissions, the restorative justice model puts offender and offended across the same table.
The current criminal justice system isolates the victim, she explains. Even the crime is committed "against the state." Restorative justice doesn't replace retribution as much as add to it. "It asks who's been harmed and it includes the community in [answering the question] how may we heal."
I ask if victims really want to face their offenders. When my car was broken into the second time, I didn't want an apology. I wanted to break legs.
But a few days and a new windshield later, I got over it.
How do you get over a loved one's violent death?
"We cannot keep building prisons," Owen says. When someone gets shot, it's not just the victim or even the victim's family who is harmed. In a restorative justice system, "it's the community claiming part of what's been harmed is them."
And yes, she and her husband, a scientist and part-time musician, would want to face whoever stole her husband's beloved ukulele.
"It's not just a ukulele," Owen would tell the thief. "This was an irreplaceable piece of art that made a sound we'll never hear again."
"Right now, all we have is a police report."
The coalition will hold a vigil for Jose Alfredo Gonzales Medrano at 5:30 p.m. tonight between Pettigrew Street and Angier Avenue. He was 29 when he was fatally shot March 22.
The vigil will be led by the Rev. Spencer Bradford of Durham Mennonite Church. The purpose, according to the coalition, is to pray for peace and healing, to give those affected an opportunity to have their voices heard, and for all who love mercy and justice to publicly state that such violence is unacceptable.