A group of local pastors is leaving the comfort of their pulpits and taking their message to the streets to reach out to the young people of the community with an appeal to stop the violence and come join the conversations.
The pastors joined by concerned citizens gathered at the Charles Martin youth Center last week for a program titled “Community Conversations & Dialogue Violence: Impact on Families, Promoting Solutions.”
“Violence, what is it good for, absolutely nothing, say it again.” said the Rev. Hardy Blake, of Admore LaSalle Church of Christ. “We need to find ways to reach these young people before they come to us because trust me they will come it us if they are killed.”
“What we need to do is find different strategies to get to these young folk. We need to reach out to them before they come to us to preside over their funerals. I have been to funerals of young people where on the day of funeral the church is packed. But come Sunday morning none of them come back. So I am suggesting where ever we might meet these young people put out sign-up sheets and as they leave, get their names, e-mails or number. Everyone is using social media. This is one way to start getting them back to church.”
Spearheading this effort are the Rev. Raphael Thomas, of Faith Temple Church of God in Christ; Blake and David Buggs, of Pentecostal Cathedral Church of God in Christ; Maurice Scott, of the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, South Bend Parks and Recreation Department; Bobby Wood, of Mamas Against Violence; and Gladys Muhammad, of the Charles Martin Youth Center.
“One of things we have to do is change how we treat those who might be looking for a church to attend,” said Thomas. “We accept people where they are in life and everyone is welcome.”
The conversation and dialog is intended to keep an ongoing discussion of the violence that has an effect on the community but mostly on young black males.
“We go to so many of these focus groups,” said Vida Harley-Bridges, who runs Success Unlimited H.T. Marketing. “It’s time we take some kind of action.”
Scott said he had to make some changes in the language of a sign that greeted the young people coming to the center.
“When I first started at the working at the Martin Luther King center there was this huge sign that stated, ‘No guns allowed, violators will be prosecuted’ ’’ he said. “I’m a believer in policy, procedure dictates outcome. So we took down the sign and put ‘Safe Place,’ it changed the program. Just starting with the language helped affect the outcome.”
According to crime statistics recently released by the South Bend Police Department, the nine murders within the city limits in 2011 were slightly up from the six reported in 2010 — leading to an increase — but police said that still signals an overall decline in violence.
“I see the parents of some of these young people in church,” said Thomas. “Maybe a good start would be to bring your children with you.”
Staff writer May Lee Johnson:
Conversation on stopping violence seeks solutions
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