GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– There was such a huge turnout for the community input meeting about violence that organizers say they just could not hear everyone’s passionate messages. But, it got the ball rolling.
It was standing room only as nearly 1,000 concerned parents and people from all types of community services came to Messiah Missionary Baptist church to brainstorm how they could stop crimes against teens and young adults.
If the topic of discussion sounds familiar, it likely is. The community has worked for years trying to stop the violence. But pastors say, this time is different.
“The failures of the past cannot keep us from initiating new energies in the present,” said Dr. Cliff Rhodes, pastor of Messiah Missionary Baptist Church. “So, if we fumbled before but the game still plays, we’re going to try to come up with better plays, try to execute better plays. I think this morning was a strong picture of that kind of execution.”
Bringing experts from all types of programs and services around Grand Rapids, this group plans to take the next one to two months go out into neighborhoods to find out where they need to concentrate resources.
“Getting some basketball started for the younger folks, shooting pool,” said attendee, Kenneth McAlpin. “Getting something positive started in the community would be great.”
Students Jaylynne Yancy and Robbyin Bell came to the meeting. They have been on edge since the recent shootings in their neighborhoods.
“I was surrounded by each shooting so its hard to be in that community and walk out of your own house and not be scared,” said Yancy.
“We go to school with these people every day and teens talk to teens before they talk to another adults,” added Bell.
Others feel the best way to end the violence is to come clean.
“Anyone with any information, bring it all in.” said attendee Rahen Brown. “Someone got to say something. Somebody got to know something. Bring it all in so we can put a stop to this.”
Organizers have set dates for what they are calling break-out sessions to better target where to put resources in neighborhoods and for what specific groups that need attention.
January 23: Life Quest will host a dialogue involving youth workers at from 6:30 p.m to 8 p.m, at 1050 Fisk Road.
February 5: Coffee with Captain Payne starting at 5:30 p.m, at 636 Bates Street S.E.
February 7: Link will host a dialogue at GR Ford Middle School from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at 851 Madison Avenue SE.
February 21: Members of the clergy will discuss congregational care and development at 5:30 p.m., located at 618 Jefferson Avenue SE.
February 25-28: The Urban League will host a discussion on mental health during the evening, located at 745 Eastern Avenue SE.