Dear People at Open Heart / Close Case Campaign,
I am an European journalist and blogger who was greatly moved by the story of Charnice Milton, which I read on the New Yorker. I was really struck because as a local journalist, although living in a peaceful place, I somehow can relate with the endeavor of her work as a reporter and I felt the urge to tell this story for my Italian readers.
I am writing to you because I would like to know how is the campaign going: did you succeed to have councilmembers debate with you in your neighborhood? Is Anacostia becoming a slightly safer place? Is Charnice still remembered? I have read some of her articles and I find them brilliant. Some people don't understand how hard it is to be a local reporter, and I think that her story, although physically distant from here, can shed a good light on this work.
I thank you in advance for your answer and also for your great work in making the world a better place.
Paolo Stella Casu
Advancing in Glory: A Letter to Paolo Stella Casu on the Status of the Charnice Milton Murder
By Kenneth McClenton
Dear Paolo Stella Casu and the Citizens of Italy,
I thank you for your outstretched hand of compassion and wonder regarding what has become of the Investigation of the Charnice Milton Murder and of the City's Culture since our tragic loss.
Charnice was a tremendous young woman. She was an Overcomer in Christ Jesus. When spurned in grade school for her speech impediment, she focused on her immense gift of song which mesmerized all that heard her. She excelled academically, earning scholarships to Bishop McNamara High School and Ball State University. The Ball State Daily remembered her as a "Champion":
The first time Charnice Milton earned a B in high school, her father Kenneth McClenton remembers her telling him, "Sometimes stuff happens."
"I said, 'Stuff happens? Well, now I'm about to take your stuff away,'" McClenton said laughing.
Francine Milton and McClenton pushed their daughter to her fullest potential, never letting her get down on herself despite a speech impediment and form of Asperger's syndrome. And their efforts proved to be successful as she graduated from Bishop McNamara High School with honors, and she accepted a Presidential Scholarship offer to Ball State.After deciding to commit to Ball State, she boarded an
airplane on her 18th birthday with
her mother to attend her freshman orientation.
"She truly loved being there," her mother said. "She wasn't afraid of trying new things."
With a BSU communication studies degree, she continued to Syracuse where she received her master's degree in journalism in 2011 from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. While never a Pulitzer winner, her commitment to community newswriting was appreciated in every Disrict of Columbia cultural institution. Andrew Lightman, the Managing Editor of Capital Community News publisher of The Hill Rag, MidCity DC and East of the River community newspapers, grew her from an accomplished student writer to an accomplished community writer. Under his mentorship, she was able to tell the stories of inner city Washington with the skill of a literary artist and the power of a Native Washingtonian. The Syracuse University alumna, who was shot and killed while heading home from an assignment on May 27th, will be among the names considered in 2015 for the Newseum's memorial to slain journalists.
Every morning, I check the refrigerator. I look in the spot where she left my great treasure--a canister of Southern lemonade. Every morning, she would prepare this Southern jewel for my great enjoyment. Charnice was a wonderful human being. She left an indelible mark on us, her parents. She brought out the beauty of Urban America beyond the confines of stereotype and disenfranchisement. She touched the city as a human shield between inner city gang members. She has touched the world living for Christ with an impeccable character and sincere pursuit of the highest good of mankind in her every work. Her death is not the last scene of her impact.
My wife, Francine Milton, and I have been as resolute in our grief as we had been in memorializing Charnice. From the moment we learned of her death, we vowed a fight on behalf of the innocents. For the voiceless like Charnice that are killed on the streets of the inner city by gang members, we wage battle against the silence of neighbors that honor the "don't snitch" demands of the criminal tyrants and against the ideological partisanship that promotes victim-hood, fear and death. For decades, it has seemed that the culprits have been able to get away with murder in the Nation's Capital. In the realm of public safety, many have softened cultural stances against violent crime prosecution by falsely aligning reform arguments against non-violent reform stances. The reasoning has been enveloped in the cause of "prison reform" in the United States. Worse, advocates use "race" as a sincere argument against prosecuting violent crime. However, over 85% of those on the List of Unresolved Homicides in the District of Columbia are black men. As of this writing, the District has recorded its 140th Homicide, up 56% from last year. The heightened march of death is felt around the City however, more expressly in the most impoverished communities East of the Anacostia River. Wards 7 and 8 compose this area and is blighted by poverty, unemployment and violent crime. Simply put, no one wants to risk their lives to seed businesses, build worship centers or live in places where their life, liberty and pursuits of happiness are at great risk. Public safety is the foundation for economic renewal and cultural revitalization. We are committed to come against all that makes our Nation's Inner Cities chaotic and unsafe.
The Open Heart / Close Case Campaign was created on August 9, 2015 under the auspices of The Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC). The OHCC Campaign is the Public Safety Arm of the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC) in Washington, DC. It is our advocacy agency for the defenseless like Charnice Milton and the voiceless like Relisha Rudd. We understood that when the media, the reporters, the bloggers and camera crews all go away two things remain: the need for justice and the need for closure. Justice comes when our cultural institutions open their heart to the devastation felt by the victim’s loved ones and a responsibility to make our public safe. Closure comes when all has been done to find and sentence the guilty, to salve the gnawing question of what happened to our loved ones and to set in place obstacles from such occurrences repeating. Our Campaign has yielded much fruit in the first 120 days.
Our mobilization of neighborhood leaders and petition efforts bore the first Pubic Safety Hearing by the DC City Council in over a year. The hearing, entitled "Judiciary Public Hearing: Beyond 100 Homicides & B21-0261", gave neighbors the opportunity to speak against the societal ills that permit the continuance of violent crime and offer solutions. My testimony is concluded in the District record. Many of the solutions offered centered around the City Mayor's political desire to fund social workers and community groups to fight against violent crime. The result? Homicides continue to rise. Political patronage does not end violent crime but produces visible hands that seek financial reward for teaching people to endure "the spike" in violent crime. Realizing that politicians prefer endurance over eradication, our Campaign proposed and hosted two Townhall Assemblies over the weekend. Why Assemblies and not Meetings? One of my slain daughter’s hobbies was movie watching. We both enjoyed watching Marvel’s Avengers. In reminiscing, it came to me that those who wish to do justice and protect the common good did not come together to talk about their problems. They assembled to solve their problems. Over the weekend, from the various cultural institutions, leaders assembled to present solutions for the societal ills of unresolved homicides, missing persons and exploited children. They toiled under three expectations. One, they were to inspire listeners to break the binds which keep them silent and victims. Two, they were focused on solutions to the societal ills and not reciting the ills arriving at fate of paralysis in their cities. Finally, three, they were to mobilize listeners to leave their seats and use their pens as swords to exact change in every individual, family, neighborhood, economic entity, educational center, governmental servant and Faith leader. We need Warriors on the Wall to protect and serve the least, the last and the lost. Their words opened hearts and will lead to closed cases.
The "Real Solutions" Townhall Assembly: A Cultural Public Safety Conversation events were held in Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC. What became of these events? An answer to closing cases not just the Charnice Milton murder case but unresolved homicide, missing persons and exploited child cases around the world. Howie Comen of the Comen Detective Agency arranged a great opportunity.
The Balt.and DC meetings were very exciting. When I announced the fact that some 60-75 Intellenet members (former FBI, CIA, IRS, KGB, and international law enforcement and military retirees) would donate 20 hours investigating unsolved murders, Missing Person, and cases involving exploited children the clergy and laity at both venues were overwhelmed. One mother of a murdered child broke out into tears of joy. They see the private detectives from all over the USA, Canada, Mexico, China, S Africa, Brazil, Pakistan, France and England as Human Angels.
In these times of greed, self interest, and murder rates increasing in the US and worldwide due to hate between faiths the Intellenet members offer was very powerful.
Rest assured we all will spend considerable time raising funds to go beyond the two month trial period and fund these efforts permanently.
As soon as Open Heart Closed Case Chair Kenneth McClenton approves, I will announce a major international effort in Justice, Education, Police Oversight, and an International Movement to Declare January of February Interfaith and Racial Harmony Month.
Imagine what an impact to have 75 of the world's top detectives helping local police agencies in closing unresolved cases.Imagine how the Campaign's soultion will bring closure and justice to the many families that have gone days, months and years without even the slightest moment of hope. Finally, solutions that work by the spirit of action and results.