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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Students tackle violence after friend’s fatal shooting

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It was on May 6, 2017, that Dijon Anderson became a victim of gun violence. 

It was his story that helped his football teammate Brandon Warren, a 17-year-old incoming senior at Warren Central High School, team up with his peers to create We LIVE, a nonprofit organization that stands against youth violence. 

It was there that a movement began.

“I told myself that I really needed to do something to try to help our city, I went about with the vision and told everybody I came in contact with, and just went from there,” said Warren.

The idea for this initiative touched Anderson’s mother, Christa Frazier, who had lost her oldest son, whom she had at a young age. Frazier described her late son as someone who grew with her and was her protector.

“I was really, really, excited, because it was Dijon’s peers,” she said. “Just, the way that it touched them, to want to do something for the city and not just for the school to help stop the violence.

“They are also awesome at representing themselves as young people. They are doing awesome in everything that they can, and I am really proud of them. I told them, ‘I’m not going to be talking for you guys. I will help, but this is your thing,’ but I’m going to stand behind them every step of the way.” 

We LIVE has just begun taking those steps, but the initiative has already gotten a lot of attention. 

The students had a booth at Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration, where many expressed interest in getting involved.

“My phone literally is always blowing up through email or text. I Google search people, or people somehow find me and reach out to me. I have never answered so many unknown calls or texts. It’s been great,” said Warren, adding that local organizations like DON’T SLEEP, his school and even the U.S. Attorney’s Office have offered assistance.

“I never expected it to be this large. Actually, I never even expected for me to do this. I thought I would tell people of my vision and they would kind of run with it, but somehow I did, and I never expected to get this far or (get) this much awareness,” said Warren.

Warren said We LIVE is already bringing comfort to others who have dealt with violence.

“There have been many people that have reached out to me who have lost friends (and) family due to such a senseless act. … It’s very interesting to hear their stories and see how it relates, because it doesn’t hit home until it knocks on your front door, and I never really paid attention to so many senseless acts until it actually happened to me,” said Warren.

Frazier said the group is impacting her younger son, too.

“He lost his big brother. His big brother was his hero, so for him to see the support and love, I think that will help him, too. You know, get his mind off things,” she said. 

For its first major initiative, We LIVE is planning a Peace Spirit Week beginning Aug. 12.

Warren said Monday will be purple and orange day, as the colors represent awareness of youth violence and gun violence, respectively. Tuesday will be Celebrate Day.

“(You can) celebrate any loved ones you have lost to youth violence. For instance, we have ‘Dijon Strong’ shirts, and so you can wear Dijon Strong shirts at school, or (wear something to celebrate) anybody else,” he said. “We don’t want it to be anything sad. We want to celebrate their lives.”

Wednesday will be Future Day, and students will be encouraged to dress how they envision their future selves, whether that entails a business suit of a basketball jersey.

Tie Dye Day on Thursday will bring out bright, cheery colors, and on We LIVE Day on Friday, We LIVE shirts will be available.

“Throughout the whole week you can sign the spirit week banner to say that you are against youth violence, and then you’ll eventually get a purple ribbon after,” Warren said, adding that he hopes the movement will catch on at multiple schools across Indianapolis and, eventually, the whole city.

“Our big goal is that it’s throughout the city, where it’s a constant reminder. Say you’re walking into a restaurant and you see a purple ribbon on the wall. Then you’re like, ‘I know where that’s from. They’re against youth violence,’” Warren explained. “You know, enough is enough. We just want everybody on board throughout the city. How can you not be on board when it’s for you?”

With the group’s peer-to-peer approach, Frazier is hopeful We LIVE can make a difference.

“A teenager will respond better to a teenager, just like peer pressure. So this is like a good peer pressure, pressuring them to do the right thing instead of the wrong thing. Once kids see that this trend of violence is not the answer, that a lot of kids are not like that, that they can have fun without violence, I think that will be good,” she said. “It’s just so much crime, and maybe this will wake the city up. Look at our kids, look at their lives. This isn’t the way they’re supposed to be living, scared or burying their friends or having to grow up and think of their friends that they lost along the way in high school.”

Warren said he hopes this movement creates an impact that expands beyond Indianapolis, as he knows violence is a problem everywhere. With the needed resources, Warren said the group will reach out to provide support directly to families in need. He said hopes We LIVE can help keep kids off the streets and away from violence, just by being available.

“We are (here) with open arms,” said Warren.

Students tackle violence

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