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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Marching for peace

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As temperatures rise this summer, urgent efforts are being made to keep the homicide rate from doing the same.

Local leaders and community organizations have announced a flurry of initiatives to prevent violence among youth.

They may not be able to stop all violent crime, but if even a single life is saved, the initiatives will be more than worth the effort.

“The greatest concern is the rising number of youth in our community who are involved in gangs and other potentially violent groups,” said Rev. Charles Harrison of the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition, a community organization dedicated to reducing violence by going into the streets and reaching at-risk youth, gang members and ex-offenders.

Violence, Harrison noted, can be prevented.

“Parents can take control of their families and get their kids involved in things that are positive,” he said. “Our community also needs to become ‘the village’ again and show concern. If you see illegal activity, report it so that we can get those people off the streets.”

This week the Ten Point Coalition held a press conference for relatives of recent homicide victims who refused to perpetuate the cycle of violence with retaliation. The organization is also seeking to rally the community to speak out against violence, embrace youth and take neighborhoods back from criminals. This Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ministers with the Ten Point Coalition will sponsor a March for Peace with Mothers Against Violence, Radio One and the Front Porch Alliance.

The march will begin at the Soccer Complex near 16th and Riverside, and end at Riverside Park.

The Marion County Juvenile Correctional Center is also working to reduce the number of homicides and non-fatal shootings. Although the center exists for the purpose of incarcerating deviant youth, its staff is devoted to making sure inmates do not return, and keeping other young people from being locked up.

To that end, the juvenile center is hosting its Peace is Power Anti-Gun Violence conference on July 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will be held at the juvenile center with 120 teens who are among the city’s most at-risk youth.

Participants will encounter testimonies from families of youth who have been killed, reflections from survivors of violence, a rally to encourage positive alternatives to violence, workshops on conflict resolution and resources to help turn their lives around.

“Many of our students have been victims of gun violence, and some have been offenders,” said Tonya Hill, volunteer coordinator for the Marion County Superior Court’s Juvenile Division, which oversees the juvenile jail. “Our goal is to decrease the violence that has plagued our city during the summer months.”

Organizers with Indiana Black Expo (IBE) are so concerned about violence among youth that they have made youth and young adults the focus of this year’s Summer Celebration.

A variety of events will be offered at the Indiana Convention Center for participants next month including, among many others, Children’s Day, The Youth Entrepreneur Seminar, The College Readiness Workshop, the IBE Youth Leadership Summit, and the Amp Harris/Reggie Wayne Saving Our Youth Celebrity Basketball Game.

“We believe youth can positively impact society,” said Quiana Graham, director of IBE’s Youth and Family Programs.

Community organizations, however, are not alone in their efforts to combat youth violence. City leaders have announced a new, comprehensive partnership called the Youth Violence Reduction Team (YVRT), which is designed to prevent youth from engaging in crime.

The new initiative is based on Wishard Hospital’s Prescription of Hope program, which helps survivors of violent crime and their families make lifestyle choices to keep them from being readmitted for violence related injuries.

The YVRT will include the Department of Public Safety, which is providing funding, IMPD, which is providing officers dedicated to youth outreach and coordinating community safety plans; and the Ten Point Coalition, which will conduct interventions to reduce street tension and retaliation.

Also involved are the Peace Learning Center and the county juvenile center, which will help identify at-risk youth, divert from potentially violent choices and develop re-entry options for young offenders.

“This unique partnership is the first of its kind in the country,” Mayor Greg Ballard said. “YVRT will utilize established crime prevention programs to build partnerships that will create safer environments for our youth.”

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