Video by Gerry Ricciutti
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The pastors and others who have organized the Stop The Violence movement said Thursday a recent wave of violence leaves them undeterred as they continue their mission – and they also earned a new recruit.
At a press conference at New Bethel Baptist Church, Rev. Kenneth Simon, the church’s pastor and a member of the United Pastors, Clergy, and Community Leaders of Youngstown said the group will continue to hold their prayer walks and mentoring and mediation training sessions to try and stem the tide of violence in the city.
Simon’s remarks came after a period of a little over 24 hours from Tuesday through Wednesday where 10 people were shot, two fatally, including a 10-year-old girl.
“We will not allow these mindless, thoughtless and reckless offenders to terrorize the streets of our community,” Rev. Simon said.
So far this year the city has seen 93 people shot, including all 20 homicide victims. In 2020, a total of 98 people were shot, including 27 of 28 homicide victims.
Rev. Simon said the effort will take time and it needs more people involved. He implored every church in the city to become involved. He said only a sustained, community based effort will put an end to the chronic violence plaguing the city.
Rev. Simon also said the violence problem is part of a larger spiritual problem, and that people of faith need to unite to conquer it.
“It’s going to take all of us who believe in God to truly make a difference,” Rev. Simon said.
Rev. Simon also implored anyone who has information on the violence to go to the police.
Rev. Rosie Thompson Taylor, head of the interdenominational alliance, said she has lived in the city her entire life and the violence now is the worst it has ever been.
“I have been here all my life and I have never seen this level of violence… We’re all united because this violence must stop. We are losing generations of young people to violence,” Rev. Thompson Taylor said.
Rev. Lewis Macklin, pastor of Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, said if someone can not make it to one of the prayer walks, they can pray on their own or volunteer on their own. He said everyone has their own special gift they can use in the effort.
“All of us can do something and we need you to do something,” Macklin said. “Pray, fast and yes, serve.”
One of the cornerstones of the movement is an effort to get people involved in mediation so they can head off disputes between people before they turn to violence and they are also offering the use of their churches for those services. They also want to have mentors available to the young people who typically commit and are victims of violence, to give them a positive example.
Macklin said mediators and mentors are both needed and the group will provide them with training. But while there was a lot of talk about prayer, one person said prayer alone is not enough.
Boston Walker, who lives in the city and runs a business, said young people need to have an example to know what it’s like to experience failure and to still continue on the right path. He said all too often, some young people want to do good but get disappointed when things don’t work out and they go back to the street life.
Walker said he knows what he’s talking about; he said he once ran the streets, shot people and was shot at and served a prison sentence before he turned his life around. He credited a pastor for helping him get straightened out.
“These kids need to know how to build,” Walker said.
When the event was over, Walker exchanged his contact information with Macklin. Rev. Simon, who said he agreed with Walker that more than prayer is needed to address the violence. He added that prayer is an important component.
“It does take the physical and the spiritual,” Rev. Simon said.