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FLINT, MI — One man has turned his family’s tragedy into a reason to fight diligently against Flint’s gun violence issue.
Joseph Pettigrew’s father, Sidney Pettigrew, Jr., was shot and killed on May 1, 2018, at a gym on Flint’s south side in the middle of the day. Flint police are still searching for his killer.
“I was an anti-gun violence advocate at first, but now it’s like I’m a next level advocate,” said 24-year-old Pettigrew. There are other issues, but right now, at this moment in time, I’m focused on gun violence.”
Pettigrew is partnering with the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence in hopes of bringing the anti-gun violence nonprofit to Flint, and he is working with community advocates on a Flint proclamation to have an annual day dedicated to recognizing those killed due to gun violence.
“In Flint, gun violence is normal. It’s become a way of life,” Pettigrew said. “It shouldn’t be. We should never look at this as if it is normal.”
The Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence also known as MCPGV is an affiliate of States United to Prevent Gun Violence. The nonprofit focuses on state-based gun violence programs and works to prevent gun violence through community education and stronger gun laws.
According to a 2018 Federal Bureau of Investigation report, Flint’s crime went up an estimated 23 percent in 2017 making Flint the nation’s sixth most violent city with a population of at least 50,000.
Flint advocate Ryan LoRee is working with Pettigrew to help make the proclamation happen.
“We have been in conversation a lot about what has been going on in Flint,” LoRee said. “I’ve seen other cities where they’ve done proclamations about this. That’s just a start. Gun violence like this happens in marginalized communities. That’s why nothing is being done about it just like the water crisis. If this were happening in cities like Birmingham, (Mich.) them people would be all over it. I think it’s going to take different people from all different fronts to help him out.”
The team is currently working on language for the proclamation, and when it’s ready, they are hoping Flint’s mayor approves it and one a day a year is given to bring victims, survivors, and anti-gun violence advocates together.
“Let’s have a day where people in Flint come together to remember what we’ve lost,” Loree said. “This is only the beginning. I know other cities do it.”
Cities throughout the nation including Chicago have participated in National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and other influencers including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Steph Curry, and Kim Kardashian have shown support for a national movement inspired by a group of Chicago teenagers.
“I feel like after my dad died, I’m going to do whatever to educate people and continue to bring awareness to this issue,” said Pettigrew. “My idea was building a Flint coalition that consists of Flint residents, particularly young people…There are a lot of active young people in Flint but people … minimize us so much. We can make a difference. That’s the only way we are going to change things for Flint and the rest of the world.”
There were 973 violent crimes reported in Flint in 2017 including about 40 homicides.