GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Another in a series of community meetings designed to curb the recent spate of gun violence in Grand Rapids was held Wednesday evening and was targeted toward young people and youth workers.
The conversation in this meeting centered on young adults between 16 and 26 who live in the inner city. Their concerns were listened to, and two main questions were asked:
- How has the recent community violence impacted your life?
- What practical things can be done in education, law enforcement, churches, community programs and business?
John McKinney, a former gang leader, made sure he was at the meeting at Lifequest Ministries on the southeast side.
"I was 19, a 19-year-old leader. Now I'm 37. I went to prison. I go to Edge Urban Fellowship faithfully I just want to be part of the solution," he told 24 Hour News 8 after the meeting.
He said targeting youth is key to stopping the violence.
"We need guys like myself who can mentor these guys and teach these guys that there's a better way, that they have better opportunities, but those opportunities have to be better, and I think that's what's going on right now," he said.
Alexis Lowe is just 15, but had enough courage to get up in front of everyone and urge other teens not to judge one other.
"If you just say hello to somebody, but if you give somebody a nasty look that might push them over the edge to do something that they shouldn't do. And if you just accept people and be more accepting and not so judgmental of people then you can open up and reach more people," Lowe said.
McKinney once led a dangerous life, but he's now a husband and a father. He wants to put a stop to the violence to protect his community and his family.
"I went to prison for carrying a concealed weapon and possession of narcotics. Did my time, got out and got married, turned my life around and now I'm just trying to make a difference," he said.
The Wednesday evening meeting was led by the Rev. T. Evans of the Edge Urban Fellowship, Quentin Henry of Urban Young Life, Jerry Bishop of LifeQuest, MarShon Peoples of I.C.O.N. and Victor Williams of Hip Hop Coalition.
This series of meetings, called Stop It!, was announced at a press conference by ministers and GRPD Police Chief Kevin Belk. The first meeting was held Jan. 18 at Messiah Missionary Baptist Church and drew a standing-room only crowd.
The following Stop It! meetings are set for:
February 5. 5:30pm. Community meets with police. "Coffee with Captain Payne" 636 Bates SE
February 7. 5:30pm Community Forum. Gerald R Ford Middle School. 815 Madison SE
February 21. 5:30pm. Clergy. 618 Jefferson SE
February 25-28. Several evening meetings regarding systems, mental health. Urban League 745 Eastern SE
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