Kalamazoo residents walking for peace

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Community members took the streets of the North Side neighborhoods in Kalamazoo remembering people at the exact spots where they died. They called it a peace walk, in an effort to remind people that one murder is too many and violence, in any neighborhood, affects the whole community.

Pictures of 42 people lined the fence of Ferrell Park in remembrance of those who have died from violence. Not only a problem in this community, but all around the nation. People walked to some of the spots where others were killed in the North Side neighborhoods. They put a picture, lit a candle and shared a memory of their loved ones.

Hunter Williams, Orlando Walker and Jasmine Bloodworth were just a few of the lives lost in this community. Their pictures are now on the streets of Kalamazoo where they died.

“It makes me shudder because of people not being able to sit on their porches or kids not being able to play in parks,” said Pat Stromsta of the First Presbyterian Church.

Stromsta helped organize the event after one grieving mother asked for her help.

“Toni came to me about 6 weeks ago and told me the story about how her son had been killed by gun violence. The way she talked about it laid heavy on my heart,” said Stromsta.

Toni McGhee lost her first born. He was only 23-years-old when his life was taken.

“His picture will be put on Florence and Westnedge Avenue where six other lives were taken on that block,” she said.

Dozens of people walked to each spot where the victims last stood. Community members talked along the walk about how they are not at ease for what the future holds.

“I remember when we could go to bed with the doors and windows open. I would never do that anymore,” said Charlene Taylor, a community member of Kalamazoo.

Taylor, who works with youth on a daily basis in an after school program, says she’s worried about the safety of youth in the community. There’s already been five homicides in Kalamazoo this year, according to the chief of police.

“It breaks my heart, but I can’t give up. We can’t give up,” said Taylor.

People walking Saturday evening says it starts with awareness and that’s why they put one foot in front of the other to remind the community what violence is taking from them: someone’s brother, cousin, friend, daughter and son. Everyone gathering says they know a peace walk won’t bring back their loved ones or stop the violence on the street overnight, but it’s one step towards taking back their neighborhoods.

The people they honored today were 42 people who have been killed in the last 11 years. Families say some were involved with gangs and drugs and others were innocent bystanders. They say regardless of how they died, no one has the right to take someone else’s life.

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