Nardyne Jefferies showed photos of her daughter Brishell to an audience in the Hampton University Student Center Friday morning. Each picture showed a smiling young lady coming of age.
Then, she showed a final one — her daughter’s bloodied face with a bullet wound beneath her ear as she lay lifeless.
Jefferies was a member of a panel that addressed gun violence in the black community. She was participating in the university’s annual Conference on the Black Family, with her panel moderated by ABC News chief national correspondent Byron Pitts.
The conference at Hampton University has focused on the way media has portrayed modern black families, including some of the misperceptions, inaccuracies and stereotypes frequently used in news coverage and entertainment.
“When my daughter was murdered, not only I failed her, but her community, society and everyone else,” said Jefferies, who lives in Washington, D.C. Her daughter had earlier attended a funeral when she was the unintended victim of a shooting by a group of young men armed with assault rifles similar to AK-47s. Four other young people died in the 2010 shooting.
After her daughter’s death, some news outlets made comments to her that she found insensitive and condescending after she spoke, such as “You’re so articulate,” or “You speak so well.” Jefferies said she was taken aback. “So you didn’t expect me to be able to conjugate a verb?” she said.
She said she wonders if the treatment would have been different if she had been from a richer area instead of Southwest D.C. Frequently, she said, black victims of crime are made to feel “as if they don’t matter.”
Pitts said he doesn’t like using the phrase “black-on-black crime,” which he said can be used to de-sensitize the public. News reports sometimes quickly dismiss gun crimes as “drug-related” or “gang-related” without delving into more detail, he said.
Candice Wallace, an assistant professor of social psychology at HU, said media outlets perpetuate an image of black men being universally violent. “Many times we internalize that image,” Wallace said.
There’s no disputing gun violence is a major problem permeating black communities, panelists said.
Pitts asked for a show of hands from the conference attendees if they had had a friend or loved one killed. About two-thirds of the audience of more than 300 raised their hands.
U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-Newport News, told attendees that it’s difficult to pass laws that curtail the proliferation of weapons because some communities have a gun culture where violence isn’t a problem.
“In some places, guns are like fishing rods. Everyone has them,” he said. “There’s not a gun violence problem in Montana, but there is in the inner cities.”
Nate Cadogan, 23, an HU graduate student from Portsmouth, Ohio, said he witnessed while growing up how gun crimes affect a community.
“Half of the people I grew up with are dead,” he said. “I feel like in society we have this principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But what you wind up with is no one can see and no one with any teeth.”
Cadogan said he was encouraged by the forum to take action in his own community to help present a positive image. “I picked up a lot of advice about the things I can do personally,” he said.