Color Us Connected: The views and statistics of gun violence

Guy Trammell Jr. and Amy Miller

This column appears every other week in Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Tuskegee News. This week, Guy Trammell, an African American man from Tuskegee, Ala., and Amy Miller, a white woman from South Berwick, Maine, talk about guns.

Guy Trammell Jr. and Amy Miller

By Guy Trammell Jr.

I am thankful to be alive today because my mother made sure I had the best health care as a child. However, I am also alive today because my father and the Black men of our community regularly stopped the local white supremacists (Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the White Camellia, White Citizens Council) from destroying us, in the Village of Greenwood. The men stopped this destruction by using a strong show of force. They brought their guns and strategically placed themselves along all roads leading into the Village of Greenwood.

A leader in 10th century China transformed fireworks into a deadly projectile on a handheld stick, and the concept of a gun was born. My brother and I learned to use guns at Tuskegee Institute’s Firing Range. I was not a big fan, but my father, a hunter, wanted his sons to know how to use them.

As of Jan. 7, 2022, U.S. citizens own over 393 million guns, or about twice as many as any other nation (about 120 for every 100 people). Between January 2019 and April 2021, 7.5 million U.S. citizens became new gun owners; half were women and about 40% were Hispanic or Black. This rise has increased gun accidents involving children. A Birmingham toddler and infant were injured by a gun just days ago, with the infant fighting for her life.

About 53 people are killed daily by a firearm in the U.S. In 2020, handguns were used in 59% of the 13,620 gun murders, the highest gun death rate on record. Rifles were used 3% of the time and shotguns in 1%. The other 36% were killed by unspecified firearms.

We just had mass killings in Buffalo, N.Y. and Texas, but the deadliest was in 2017 at Las Vegas, where more than 50 were killed and 500 wounded. From 2000 to 2020, the FBI recorded 345 “active shooter incidents,” resulting in 1,024 deaths and 1,828 injuries.

Most gun owners are in the South, with 161,641 guns in Alabama, or 33 guns per 1,000 people; the state has no restrictions on assault gun ownership. At about 1,001 gun deaths annually, Alabama has 23.6% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. Its rate is the third highest in the U.S., and Tuskegee’s Macon County has Alabama’s highest gun death rate. Black Alabamians are six times more likely to die by a gun than their white counterparts, and Black children are twice as likely to die by firearms than white children. Shootings are the second highest cause of childhood deaths in Alabama, an average of 78 killed annually.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution discusses “the right to carry,” but shouldn’t restrictions apply to those mentally unstable, our youth, and persons with records of criminal violence? And does this principle apply to a military assault weapon? The National Rifle Association has a history of advocacy for less gun control, with notable exceptions — in Lowndes County, Alabama, when Black citizens armed themselves to stop the killing of Black men, or in Louisiana, when Black men formed the Deacons of Defense and stopped drive-through shootings of Black neighborhoods by the Klan.

Also, venison and squirrel meat ripped and riddled by assault gun bullets are an unacceptable meal, so why do civilians need assault weapons?

By Amy Miller

On Tuesday morning, I began Googling gun laws and gun death statistics in Maine. Nineteen children from Uvalde, Texas, were still alive at the time.

Three hours later, 18 children in Uvalde, Texas, were dead. Three hours later, mothers and fathers were facing the fact that their daughters and sons would no longer be at dinner, or go to ballet, or throw a softball, or live to be adults.

Guy and I had already decided to write about guns before Tuesday, May 24. We had decided this because 10 people in Buffalo, all of them African American, had been shot and killed just 10 days earlier and because a gunman had opened fire at a Taiwanese church luncheon in Orange County, Calif., a day after that.

We also were writing about guns because people using guns kill about 40,000 Americans a year.

In my research, I learned that Maine had 10.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people and Alabama had 23.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020.

But an hour later, after hearing about the children in Texas and their teachers, the numbers became meaningless. The statistics were too dry, too unemotional, too useless.

I am searching for what to say about guns when families and a community and our nation is feeling so much profoundly sad loss.

I look for what is being said elsewhere, to find inspiration. There is lots of talk about background checks and automatic weapons and gun control laws, again.

The New York Times ran a column Nicholas Kristoff wrote in 2017 about gun violence and ways to curb it, again.

I watched our President struggle to find words, again. This time it was a father who for years has openly shared his own pain at losing a child.

I looked back to Jimmy Kimmel’s 2017 monologue following the shooting in Las Vegas. “It will happen again and again,” he predicted tearfully. “It feels like someone has opened a window into hell.” Yes, it does.

I have little to offer. What I know is that our country accounts for 4 percent of the world’s people and 14 percent of its gun deaths.

In Maine, nine out of every 10 gun deaths is a suicide. Nationally about six in 10 deaths by gun is a suicide. These people find living too painful to bear. Across the world about two of every 10 gun-related deaths is suicide.

I don’t know what any of this means. Statistics are slippery and don’t tell us why, or how it feels, or how to change the reality of leaders who will not lead.

I just know it is getting more dangerous to live in the United States and I know that those who sell guns would like to keep selling them.

Amy and Guy can be reached at colorusconnected@gmail.com

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Augusta University to start School of Public Health

Augusta University is forming a School of Public Health to better focus the school’s myriad efforts in healthful living throughout Georgia. 

That’s actually the focus of the field: improving health in communities and preventing or limiting disease outbreaks.

“When I interviewed at Augusta University in the fall of 2020, it struck me very odd that we are Georgia’s only public academic health center, and we don’t have a school of public health,” said Dr. Neil J. MacKinnon, AU’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This school will be a tremendous addition to Augusta University.”

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In this photo from 2020, Dr. Matt Lyon talks to medical staff in Washington, Ga., as he uses a computer to demonstrate his ability assess a mock patient remotely while he is at the Emergency Department at AU Medical Center in Augusta. Augusta University is starting a School of Public Health to better consolidate and magnify its public health efforts.

AU already houses several centers and degrees that fit under the umbrella of public health, which itself is wide. The Institute of Public and Preventive Health is developing an agenda to support improved community health. AU’s Center for Rural Health has developed programs and strategies to improve access to health care services in rural areas. The statewide Area Health Education Centers help provide research, education, services and outreach to Georgia’s rural communities with limited hospital or physician access. 

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AU’s College of Allied Health Sciences offers a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in applied health sciences. The Medical College of Georgia’s Department of Population Health Sciences contains several graduate programs, and the College of Education offers a health promotion undergraduate program.

“We’ve got those incredible foundation pieces,” MacKinnon said. “With this new school, we’re interested in research growth and, in public health in particular, and the community outreach part is so critical. We are truly excited about the future possibilities.”

Currently there are 68 U.S. universities with accredited schools of public health, according to the Council on Education for Public Health.

AU’s School of Public Health will be the third to be established in the University System of Georgia.

Georgia State University’s School of Public Health began in 2002. Georgia Southern University established the Jiann-Ping Hsu School of Public Health in 2004. University of Georgia’s College of Public Health was founded in 2005.

A school of public health had operated out of the Medical College of Georgia in the 1920s. According to Phinizy Spalding’s 1987 book The History of the Medical College of Georgia, only 27 men and women received degrees from the short-lived school, which he said lasted just 10 years.

“A program that had begun with such optimism and such widespread support had been the victim of improper administration, lack of initiative, involvement in politics and the economic woes brought on by the Great Depression,” Spalding wrote.

The new school will be housed on the university’s Summerville campus and is expected to launch the new school in July 2023.

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Juneteenth celebrations, Rock Rest to be honored: Community news update 

Rock Rest to be honored

Rock Rest., a historic home in Kittery Point, Maine, that, from the late 1940s through the 1970s, welcomed African-American travelers at a time when many accommodations were closed to them.

PORTSMOUTH — The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire announced the unveiling of two new historical markers honoring Rock Rest., a historic home in Kittery Point, Maine, that, from the late 1940s through the 1970s, welcomed African-American travelers at a time when many accommodations were closed to them. The Seacoast NAACP Youth Council and the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire will be hosting two unveiling ceremonies on Saturday, June 4. The first will be held at the Second Congregational Church in Wallingford Square, Kittery, Maine, beginning at 1 p.m. Participants will be invited to take a special bus to Rock Rest for the second unveiling immediately after the conclusion of the first event. The celebrations are free and open to the public.  

Clayton and Hazel Sinclair formally opened their home as a guest house called “Rock Rest” in 1946. While in operation, the house served as a summertime refuge for Black vacationers in the Seacoast region. Although Maine and New Hampshire did not have “Jim Crow” laws at the time, Rock Rest operated in an era when it was common practice to prohibit Black travelers from staying in hotels, being served in restaurants, or otherwise accessing public accommodations in the Seacoast area. 

The commemoration will begin at the Second Congregational Church with openings remarks at 1 p.m. by Rev. Dr. Lillian Buckley, a lifelong Kittery resident and musical artist. Gretchen Sorin, author of Driving While Black: African-American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights will be present via Zoom as a featured guest speaker. Following a program of poetry, speakers, and song provided by local residents, and Seacoast NAACP Youth Council members, the participants will take a short walk to Wallingford Square for the unveiling of the first marker by JerriAnne Boggis, Executive Director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire.

At the conclusion of the first unveiling, participants will be invited to take a bus to Rock Rest in Kittery Point. There New Hampshire author and historian Valerie Cunningham, Seacoast musician Sharon Partricia Jones, and community leader Kelvin Edwards will give participants the rare opportunity to hear stories about Rock Rest from those who remember it well. JerriAnne Boggis will join with the speakers to unveil the on-site marker at Rock Rest before closing remarks by Rev. Buckley. Bus transportation will be provided. 

With this ceremony, we invite the public to come together to honor Rock Rest and the legacy of the Sinclair family in our local and national history. In placing these markers, we memorialize a part of the Seacoast’s shared racial history and help educate future residents and visitors to our region. 

Celebrate Juneteenth 2022 with The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire

PORTSMOUTH — The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire is hosting a series of programs to honor Juneteenth 2022 from June 10 to June 20.  Collectively titled The Gift: Celebrating African American Public Arts, these programs will celebrate Black artists and the power of public art to tell stories, shape history, and help to heal past injustices.

To begin this year’s Juneteenth celebrations, the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire in partnership with the Prescott Park Arts Festival, will present the Disney-Pixar film Soul.  Starring the voice talents of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey and Graham Norton, the film will be shown on Friday, June 10 at 8:30 p.m. in Prescott Park.  The movie is free and will be open to the public.

On Saturday, June 11, the public is invited to explore African American history, art and poetry with a bus tour to Saint-Gaudens Historic National Park in Cornish, N.H.  The tour will take visitors to the home, studio and gardens of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the artist behind the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment Memorial.  The memorial, crafted to honor Robert Gould Shaw and the soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, many of whom died during the initial attack on a fort that protected Charleston’s harbor. 

Doctoral candidate Dana Green, Public History and Art Fellow for Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park will be in attendance as a featured speaker, along with Newton Rose, the lead interpretive ranger at the park.  The tour bus will pick up participants at the Portsmouth Park and Ride at 8:30 a.m., and the Concord Park and Ride at 9:30 a.m.  Tickets are $40 with bus pick up and $30 without bus pick up.  Lunch is included. Please register by June 2.

For more information on our week of Juneteenth programming blackheritagetrailnh.org/juneteenth-celebration-2022.

Portsmouth NH 400th, Inc. announces donation and sponsorship tiers

PORTSMOUTH – Deep into planning mode, the Portsmouth NH 400th Management Team members are paving the way to a vibrant community celebration next year and have started identifying Signature Events including a 400th Anniversary parade, a community dinner and a fall air show, along with Legacy Projects meant to make a statement about Portsmouth’s past, present and future.

As the PNH400 Managing Director Valerie Rochon and Community Engagement Officer Susan Labrie explained recently to the Portsmouth City Council, “We are planning and promoting a year-long series of fun and educational events for all ages and interests, designed for the entire community to feel engaged in the celebration. We are creating ways for everyone to participate and feel connected to the community.”

Donations and sponsorships are starting to come in, via the online portal on the City website (click on the PNH400 logo at the top of the homepage, CityofPortsmouth.com) and at the PNH400 website,

PortsmouthNH400.org. Portsmouth NH 400th Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit organization, so all donations are tax deductible to the extent the law allows. Check donations, made out to Portsmouth NH 400th, Inc. should be mailed to PNH400 at One Junkins Avenue, Box PNH400, Portsmouth NH 03801.

Donors are invited to contribute to this historic celebration by joining the Portsmouth NH 400 Shoalers Club by making a donation of $400, or the 1623 Revolutionaries Club with a donation amount tied to the year of settlement: $1,623. Special recognition and benefits accompany each tier.

There are also five tiers of sponsorship:

The PNH400 Lightkeeper ($50,000 level) symbolizes the power to overcome challenges and adversity, to guide a path forward. Lightkeepers support all PNH400 marketing and merchandising, allowing PNH400 to tell the stories that shed light on the city’s past, present and future. This is the most comprehensive option.

PNH400 Luminaries ($25,000 level) ignite community support through leadership. Luminaries support all programs, marketing and merchandising, influencing others to contribute to the successful year-long celebration.

PNH400 Beacons ($10,000 level) motivate community members to become ambassadors to build programs, events and projects that will ensure the City’s legacy and ignite its potential.

PNH400’s Program Captains ($5000 level) show their dedication to bringing the City’s stories to life, as the leaders who ensure each program’s success.

PNH400 Program Champions ($2,500 level) provide stewardship and inspiration as ardent supporters of, and advocates for, their selected programs.  

For more information on sponsorships, donations and other funding opportunities, please contact PNH400 Community Engagement Officer Susan Labrie at susan@portsmouthnh400.org

Humana named NH Gives Matching Funds Sponsor supporting Gather’s food insecurity prevention programs

PORTSMOUTH – Gather is participating in the Annual NH Gives online fundraising event taking place June 7 to June 8. Health insurance company Humana, who partners with Gather regularly, is providing a $5,000 matching funds sponsorship during the 24-hour period of the NH Gives program, which is an initiative of the NH Center for Nonprofits. 

“We would like to partner with Gather to continue to support our local community. Our Bold Goal initiative is a population health strategy focused on addressing social determinants of heath such as food insecurity, loneliness, social isolation, transportation and housing, to improve clinical and social health outcomes for our members. We value Gather’s commitment and efforts as they align closely with ours, and we are eager for the opportunity to provide these services,” states Nichole Karahalios, Northeast Sales and Marketing Support Executive at Humana.

The public can visit NHGives.org and search “Gather” to make donations during NH Gives. The link will become active on June 7, at 5 p.m., and be open for 24 hours.

For 200 years, Gather has been serving Seacoast residents facing hunger. Gather’s mission is to make the Greater Seacoast a hunger-free community. Some of Gather’s programs include our Pantry Market, Mobile Markets, Meals 4 Kids, Cooking 4 Community, Farm Shares 4 Families and Grow 4 Gather.

All donations to NH Gives or directly through the Gather website are tax-deductible. Please contact info@gathernh.org for visit our website at GatherNH.org more information.

Retirement community residents raise thousands for Ukraine

Finished RiverWoods Durham quilt

DURHAM — RiverWoods Durham staff and residents have raised almost $9,000 in support of the people in Ukraine, and the number continues to grow.

It started with a staff member, Tetiana. She began offering wooden plaques of the Ukrainian flag, made by her daughter Kate, to raise money for family still living in Ukraine. Another resident coordinated a Blue and Yellow Day on April 8, offering lapel pins for sale, encouraging all staff and residents to wear blue and yellow in a show of support.

To date, $5,600 that has been raised through the sales of lapel-pin ribbons and wooden plaques.

In March, a large group of residents began working together to create the Hearts of Hope Quilt with the intention of offering it up for a raffle.

Blue and Yellow Day was held on April 8, offering lapel pins for sale, encouraging all staff and residents to wear blue and yellow in a show of support.

The design for the quilt is from a pattern created by international quilt designer Bonnie Hunter for the world-wide quilting community as a raffle prize to raise money for the Ukraine. Bonnie began releasing instructions weekly starting March 25.

RiverWoods Durham resident Robyn Shiely donated the fabric, coordinated the construction, and provided instruction when necessary. “When I first saw the design, I realized this was something I could teach my friends at RiverWoods Durham,” Shiely said. 

The RiverWoods Durham quilting volunteers met every Friday to review the instructions and start building units. The quilt was finished in approximately six weeks.

Shiely continued, “My personal hope for the quilt is for it to start its own legacy. I hope the winner of the raffle will then take the quilt to another community (church, town hall, library, Lions Club, etc.) and start another raffle. Sort of like a ‘traveling quilt’ fundraiser for Ukraine.”

The raffle has already raised $3,250. The quilters are hoping to see that number climb over $4,000 by the time of the drawing. 

Funds are being received by the organization Razom for Ukraine.

RiverWoods Durham Executive Director Kim Gaskell said, “I’m proud of the many ways our residents raise awareness of social justice issues and bring that to our community. They are truly committed to making a difference. It’s wonderful to see how their energy and efforts can have a significant impact globally.”

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Pine Bluff’s new Delta Informer upholds African American press tradition

A new voice is coming to the Delta. A group of Pine Bluff community activists, led by local entrepreneur Michael McCray, launched the online news site Arkansas Delta Informer May 14. The Delta Informer is Pine Bluff’s first Black-owned, independent news source and was conceived with the goal to diversify the reporting and storytelling representing Southeast Arkansas. 

“In the Delta, there’s a lot of history. There’s a lot of heritage, there’s a lot of culture, and we just weren’t seeing all of that reflected in the local, and sometimes regional news sources, and so what we want to do is be a celebration of all things Arkansas Delta, so that we can balance the scales when people look at our area, our community,” McCray said. 

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Community leader and entrepreneur Michael McCray helped found the Arkansas Delta Informer.

McCray and the founders of the Delta Informer noticed what they called a glut of bad news about their community, and decided to bring more comprehensive reporting to the area. McCray says he hopes providing nuanced, solutions-based perspectives can shift the mindset of the community and shape more positive perceptions of the Delta region.

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The Delta Informer’s bread and butter is history and heritage stories, told from a perspective not often heard. From blues artists to civil rights history, McCray aims to play up the wealth of Arkansas Delta culture, which he believes has thus far been under-covered. 

“There are a number of heroes in our community, living and deceased, that people don’t really recognize, they don’t get the accolades and attention that they really deserve. And so we’re going to talk about all of that. Talk about all these people and all these wonderful things and the impact that people from Southeast Arkansas have,” McCray said.

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McCray also noted the Delta Informer fits the tradition of other African-American newspapers. Founders saw a need for content pertinent to the Black community, and wanted to give voice to a more diverse set of issues than currently exists in local print media. The Delta Informer intends to honor the legacy of advocacy journalism from publications like the Chicago Defender and the Arkansas State Press published by L.C. and Daisy Bates. 

McCray, who is CEO of the Delta Informer, partnered with Arkansas news veteran Wesley Brown, the Informer’s publisher and executive editor. 

Veteran newsman Wesley Brown is publisher and executive editor of the Arkansas Delta Informer.

“I love news, and I love the energy that Michael and his team are bringing to this venture,” Brown said in a press release.  “They came to me with a real problem of not seeing themselves and other minorities in the local newspaper in a good light or favorably. And that is the issue we hope to address with our news coverage in the Pine Bluff area and the Arkansas Delta.”

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McCray and Brown will be recruiting a full-time editor, a reporter and freelancers. They hope to be a true community paper for Southeast Arkansas.