Lydia Slattery

Toy Guns Risky for Black Families?

Annual walk spotlights danger of kids with toy guns encountering police.

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Dr. Patricia McManus, president and CEO of the Black Health Coalition, engages with community members. Photo by Lydia Slattery.

Dr. Patricia McManus, president and CEO of the Black Health Coalition, engages with community members. Photo by Lydia Slattery.

On a rainy Saturday afternoon, about 30 people gathered at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society, 2620 W. Center St., to call attention to health disparities African-Americans face.

The annual event, hosted by Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, is meant to address a variety of health issues, but this year’s theme was “Black Moms and Grandmothers Against Toy Guns.”

“We are seeing our kids carrying around toy guns like an adult,” said Dr. Patricia McManus, president and CEO of BHCW, so the group decided to focus on discouraging mothers and grandmothers from buying toy guns.

McManus said the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland “traumatized the black community.” Tamir was shot and killed by officers when they thought he drew a real gun when he was actually playing with a toy gun in a park.

Gina Green-Harris of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute discusses resources with attendees. Photo by Lydia Slattery.

Gina Green-Harris of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute discusses resources with attendees. Photo by Lydia Slattery.

Black mother and grandmothers have a special bond with their sons and grandsons, explained McManus, who has a grandson near Tamir’s age and worries something like that could happen to him. She and his mother don’t allow him to have toy guns.

“It’s not a toy, not for our community. We could get killed because of it,” McManus said.

Added Eve Hall, president and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League, “We’ve almost become numb. We expect our children to go to school every day, regardless what they may experience in their communities.”

Hall said that children need psychologists and professionals to go into schools to talk with them about traumatic events to help them heal. One of her goals as head of the Milwaukee Urban League is to support children and their communities after traumatic events, she said.

Dr. Bevan Baker, Milwaukee Commissioner of Health, praised the event. “I can’t imagine a more incredible vision than mothers and grandmothers against toy guns,” he said. “Mothers and grandmothers are the first teachers.”

In addition to highlighting the dangers of toy guns, the walk is meant to bring awareness to health disparities and raise funds for the Wisconsin African American Eliminating Health Disparities Institute, a project of BHCW, McManus explained. It’s also a way to get the community involved in healthy behavior and educate them on these issues, said McManus.

Most participants chose to skip the walk from the Milwaukee Urban League, 435 W. North Ave. in Halyard Park to the Wisconsin Black Historical Society in Sherman Park due to the rain. This was the first time in 14 years that the walk was rained out, organizers said.

Every year the walk takes place in the central city instead of places at the lakefront or on Wisconsin Avenue. McManus, who grew up in Bronzeville, said she wants the community to know that it is safe to be in the central city.

Sponsors of the walk, including Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Health Services, Inc., Aurora Sinai Medical Center, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, set up information booths at the event.

Gina Green-Harris, director of community engagement and health partnerships at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, works with BHCW to promote brain wellness. She said she came to the walk to provide resources for families who are caring for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s.

The attendees seemed passionate about making change in their communities.

“We can’t go for shelter when our city is hurting,” said Baker. “We have got to continue to fight.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

6 thoughts on “Toy Guns Risky for Black Families?”

  1. AG says:

    Er… that is great, how about mothers and grandmothers against real guns? I know of a lot more children affected by real guns than toy. Cops worried a toy gun is a real one would not be an issue if they weren’t worried about the real one to begin with.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    Jesus you are obtuse sometimes. Obviously some very smart people feel like this is a real problem in their community. Your anecdote doesn’t make this less of an important issue. People can be worried about real and fake guns at the same time. Imagine that.

  3. AG says:

    Always with the insults, WCD… I mean Vincent.

  4. AG says:

    Despite the childish insults, I decided to respond anyway. Toy guys are legal and should not, itself, be a concern. Kids should be safe to play with these toys without repercussions. The only reason there is concern about toy guns is because real guns are a problem in high crime areas. You shouldn’t have to stop doing safe and legal things just because others are doing illegal and unsafe things. Let’s put resources towards real gun violence and then we’ll have to worry less about this.

  5. Mary Kay Wagner says:

    AG let me spell this out so you can understand. White boys don’t worry about playing with toy guns because police officers don’t assume that those toy guns are dangerous simply because they are in the hands of white boys. On the other hand, black boys playing with toy guns are considered dangerous by police officers because any kind of gun in the hands of a black person of any age is considered an imminent threat by some police officers (even if those black individuals have a legal right to carry that gun.) This is called racial inequality. That is why the killing of Tamir Rice so frightened the mothers and grandmothers who gathered. It has nothing to do with gun control or second amendment rights. It has to do with systemic racism and how people of color must protect themselves from the white power structure. Do you understand now?

  6. AG says:

    Mary Kay Wagner, No one said this event had anything to do with gun control or second amendment… I understand why you think the way you do, and I agree with the facts of what you’re saying. My point is that it is far deeper than that… if we tackle the gun violence problem then we don’t have to worry about toy guns to begin with.

    I’m troubled that more people showed up for this event than showed out at a take back our streets event last Wednesday.

    How many children have been shot by cops in Milwaukee so far this year… or the last 5 years? How many children have been shot by criminals? Tamir Rice was a horrible tragedy… if only we had as much outrage for the 102 people murdered in Cleveland that year as we do for the accidental death of that poor kid.

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