Gun crimes continue to be an issue in Washington, D.C. neighborhoods. This year, the Metropolitan Police Department calculated over 90 homicide victims.
Last year, D.C. Police recovered 1,870 illegal firearms throughout the District. Kwame Dew, a gun violence survivor, said D.C’s gun violence is “nothing new under the sun.”
In 2000, Dew was shot in the head while driving from a nightclub in Northwest D.C. He was in a coma for two weeks.
After waking up from the coma, Dew found out that he was paralyzed, but his outcome led him to believe that doctors don’t have the final say.
“The doctor told me I wasn’t going to talk again,” Dew said. “Five minutes later after my mother prayed, I started talking again.”
Dew, a father of three, remembers the day he was shot. He went to pick up a birthday gift for the mother of his children. Dew said the right side of his body became weak which made it tough to live while recovering from his brain injury.
Kwame Dew talks about the major struggles he faces daily:
Dew was introduced to the Urban Re-Entry Group, a support program for people with disabilities that are victims of violence. The group meets every Tuesday afternoon at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital to discuss adapting to the urban environment, street violence, assistance, and preventative measures in DC.
The program allows Dew to speak to children and other hospital patients who’ve experienced incidents like his and tells them how they can prevent it from happening to more people.
Dew is now in a wheelchair. He said he doesn’t let depression get to him.
“It gives me the energy to know that I am helping somebody,” Dew said.
Nowadays, he spends his mornings at the gym, taking his children to school, and working on graphic designs. Dew said that allowing the life-changing incident to negatively affect a person is all about mentality.
Kwame Dew’s outlook on life after being shot in the head:
A Mother’s Story
On December 17, 1993, Shanda Smith’s two oldest children, Rodney and Volante, were shot on their way to an annual Christmas party given by former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry in Southeast D.C.
Rodney was a 19-year-old former football standout at Anacostia High School. He received a scholarship to attend Kansas State University. Volante Smith, was a 14-year-old honor-roll middle schooler who loved to laugh. Smith said the shooting was a case of mistaken identity.
“I had to reteach myself everything that I had taught Rodney and Volante and then teach it to my two and four-year-old.”
Smith has two younger children, Marquis and Charles, who were two and four at the time of their older siblings’ deaths. In the midst of grieving, Smith said she realized something, “I had to reteach myself everything that I had taught Rodney and Volante and then teach it to my two and four-year-old.”
Smith created the organization Murdermistaken 23 years ago in memory of her two deceased children. Murdermistaken is an organization that meets with families of homicide victims to give them resources that can aid them during a time of need.
Murdermistaken hosts an annual Christmas party with D.C’s Police Department and other sponsors to remember the homicide victims with their families. At the Christmas party, Smith’s organization also provide children with toys, games and personal items such as socks, gloves, hats, and scarves.
Smith said that she hopes the children who attend the annual Christmas parties will grow up to become allies and fight to end violence in neighborhoods.
“I want them to continue the remembrance of all the homicide victims each year at the Christmas parties,” said Smith.
Nine years after the death of Rodney and Volante Smith, D.C. Police were able to find suspects and witnesses in the case. All five suspects received life imprisonment in 2015.
There are places in D.C. for survivors and families of victims like Dew and Smith to go to for help. The Network for Victim Recovery (NVRDC) is one of them.
NVRDC is an organization that provides social and legal services to victims of all crimes. Social services can range from checking in to see if a client has enough food at home to housing.
Victim Legal Network (VLN) is a division for law firms partnered with NVRDC and handles all of the legal needs of clients through a referral system. Together, they specialize in helping clients over the age of 18 and senior citizens over 60. The organization also hosts therapeutic programs every month for clients to use as an alternative outlet for recovery.
“Every conversation really is about checking in with a client and seeing if there’s a way that they can help them,” said NVRDC Strategic Advocacy Counsel Naida Henao.
Henao and VLN’s Attorney Navigator Alexandra Smith shares what is most important for survivors and victim families to know: