Black Voices Matter: An Interview With Eric J. Brown
A continuing series in which local African American leaders speak about what’s broken in our nation—and how it might be fixed.
Eric J. Brown is a pastor with City Harvest Network and a political consultant. He is also an activist with Peace for Orlando, an NAACP member, and the second assistant to the National Action Network Central Florida Chapter.
“Since February of this year, we’ve seen individuals killed by law enforcement [here in Orlando],” Eric J. Brown says, referring to the February shooting of Kevin Adolphe by Orlando Police officers and the August shooting of Salaythis Melvin by an Orange County deputy. “But we’ve also seen many people within our own community killing one another as well. Yes, we have a national outcry about law enforcement killing us, but what about the local outcry of us killing us?”
Brown says his calls for community accountability have been unpopular with some, but he points to the rash of local gang killings this year. “We had a 3-year-old baby killed, and they came back twice and shot the house up. Just recently, I got a call that a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old were shot and injured at a wedding vow renewal.” Change begins with the family, the father of five says. “The Bible says to train up your children in the way they should go so they won’t depart from it. I’m always trying to tell families to train up your children so they can be world changers and barrier breakers,” Brown says. He also exhorts parents to show tough love to their kids involved in crimes by turning them in.
Gangs are a product of unstructured home lives, he says. People who join gangs are “not disciplined, they have no structure, and they have no order. Undisciplined boys become undisciplined men, and undisciplined girls become undisciplined women.” Brown is willing to sit down with gang members to help them find alternatives to violence. “A lot of times, these gang members are very smart. Let’s get them into an economic program. Let’s get them into a robotics program. Let’s get them into some type of program where they can use their skills for good instead of using them against our own community.”