For the third year, gunfire disrupted Morgan State University’s homecoming celebration festivities. This year shots were fired after the coronation ceremony for Mr. and Ms. Morgan State. Chaos followed and campus police told students to shelter in place. Next came a SWAT team scouring a dorm for suspects. When the all-clear was given, five people, four of them students, had non-life-threatening wounds from what police believe were multiple suspects.
“One individual was a target of two individuals who had weapons. We don’t believe that individual was hit,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley said in a news briefing. “We believe the five victims who were struck were unintended targets.”
Students reported leaving the coronation when they heard gunshots and everyone started running. “It was a great event with lots of student leaders and families,” Alan Dixon, president of Morgan State’s chapter of the NAACP, told The Final Call. “About 10-15 minutes afterward everybody started running inside the building from the presumable danger. I started running as well because everybody was super alarmed. It was kind of crazy.”
University President Dr. David Wilson released a Statement: “In the abundance of sensitivity for the emotional wellbeing of the campus community, we have also decided to cancel all classes and activities for the remainder of the week and will implement campus-wide programming geared towards the health and welfare of our University community. We strongly believe that this moment calls for reflection, thus allowing our students, faculty and staff the opportunity to focus on their mental wellness.”
The campus was eerily quiet minus the usual chatter of college life.
“I know the students are heartbroken, very distraught. I’ve heard the campus is almost empty, like it’s bare. We have a strong student body, a family kind of atmosphere. For the campus to just be empty is kind of unusual. But it’s definitely understandable,” said Mr. Dixon.
As pervasive as gun violence is becoming in American cities few think it will happen where they live. However, this mass shooting (at least four victims) is the latest in a painful list of at least 531 mass shootings this year in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It is also one of at least 17 shootings this year at a U.S. college or university, including in North Carolina, Michigan and Oklahoma.
Before Christopher Palmeter killed three Black people at a Florida Dollar General, he drove to Edward Waters University, the first historically Black college or university in Florida. Students saw him putting on a tactical vest, gloves, a mask and a hat. They quickly notified campus security who pursued him until he left campus.
“What happened on our campus was such a senseless act of violence perpetrated on our community. It was so disappointing to learn of what took place, especially after what was a family-filled and fun evening of celebrating the pageantry and beauty of our students. But rest assured, our Morgan family is strong and we will march on with determination to keep moving on,” President Wilson explained.
Baltimore’s Mayor Brandon Scott told the media that the shooting was not reflective of Baltimore: “Any mayor in any city will tell you that we have a national problem with guns in the hands of people that should not have them, and we have to handle it in a national way.”
It may not be a Baltimore thing, but guns and conflict are exactly the thing that the community organization We Our Us is about. As soon as he heard about the shooting at Morgan State University, the group’s president, Andrew Muhammad organized a meeting with student and community leaders.
“We are offering them conflict resolution training, mediation, and community engagement. We have 117 men active in our organization. Christians, Muslims, Jews and atheists, but more importantly men that want to see change. We are offering the students every resource that we have,” he told The Final Call.
Mr. Muhammad invited the Morgan State community to the We Our Us event, “Put Down the Guns and Stop the KillingPeace Walk and Resource Fair.” “Our youth need mentors and guides. Black men must be involved with young men on campus and in the community. They are young, they are having parties and events. Their mentality about resolving conflict has changed from 20 years ago. We want to help them navigate through our city, but also give them leadership skills,” he said.
“Our focus is on manhood training, manhood development, conflict mediation, and resolution. We have a ‘Stop the Beef’ program because according to the media, supposedly two different crews were shooting at each other. That’s also what law enforcement is saying. That’s where conflict mediation comes in. Our presence can deter a lot of situations,” he said.
Desireé Veney is the vice-president of Morgan’s NAACP Chapter. She was excited after the meeting. “With everything that has been going on, we really appreciate, ‘We Our Us,’ the support they have given to us and the resources they provided for us. We plan to continue those connections and build upon that not only in our community, but our Morgan State community as well,” she told The Final Call.
“We look forward to being a part of their, ‘Put Down the Guns and Stop the Killing’ on October 21. This will be the foundation of many more things to come to build our students and our environment back up to where we were.”