YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Youngstown residents marched in a prayer walk on Sunday in a response to violence across the city — including most recently, a shooting near Homestead Park that killed 16-year-old Isaiah Walker.
“What do we want? Peace. When do we want it? Now!” Youngstown residents chanted as they walked down Market Street in the city’s first Stop the Violence prayer walk of the year.
The United Pastors clergy and community leaders of Greater Youngstown Against Violence organized the walk on the city’s South Side.
Around 50 community members showed up to pray and spread peace in hopes what they say is the “violent culture” in Youngstown.
“We’re here to change the culture in the city of Youngstown where violence is sometimes accepted and tolerated, and we’re here to say we are not tolerating violence,” said Pastor Kenneth Simon.
Residents at the march said that positive action, prayer and support will help change that.
“I do believe it can get better if we continue to come together and come up with ideas to support each other, that the violence can be reduced,” said 7th Ward Citizens Coalition president Josie Lyon.
The prayer walks are expected to take place for the majority of the weekends over the summer. Youngstown native and educator Leslie Kitchen said the cultural change will take time.
“It might not be an impact that we see initially but in the long run there will be those who can reflect on that there were people who stepped up and stood up for what is right,” Kitchen said.
Pastor Simon said the city will offer additional mentoring, mediation and parent resources to anyone who needs help keeping their kids out of violence.
“We’re tapping in to those resources where parents can receive help,” Simon said.
Community leaders and members said it’s the first step in creating a safe and nonviolent city.