Columbia residents discuss ways to promote nonviolence

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 | 11:00 p.m. CDT; updated 9:00 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Lorenzo Lawson, senior pastor at Chosen Generation Ministries, and Lester Woods Jr., senior pastor at Urban Empowerment Ministries, led the Silence The Violence meeting Tuesday evening. Woods believes that "the reason a lot of communities don't come together and do this is because it's hard."

COLUMBIA — After two recent fatal shootings involving teenagers, DeAudre Johnson and Bryan Rankin, about 70 people gathered Tuesday night to discuss violence in Columbia. 

The meeting at the Armory was facilitated by Bishop Lester Woods Jr. of Columbia Urban Empowerment Ministries. 


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Those in attendance brainstormed ways to promote nonviolence among the youth in Columbia through a proactive approach, education and employment. 

Woods emphasized that the meeting was a community forum, and that he was hoping to start a long process of change. He did have an idea to start the change.

Woods proposed an event he calls "Silence the Violence," which would feature a march for nonviolence, a forum, and promotion of resources for youth of Columbia on April 28.

"I see April 28 as a kick-off," Woods said.

One topic discussed at the meeting was the need to make resources such as Job Point, the Youth Empowerment Zone and church programs more well-known so programs can be more widely used among youth. 

Forum participants also discussed ways to get parents more involved in promoting nonviolence in the lives of their children.

"We need parents to buy into this," said Demetria Stephens, assistant director of Job Point. "When kids see parents going back to school, working or at home with them, it's positive. It starts at home."

One suggestion was to create stronger parent and teacher associations and have them create a stronger presence in the junior high and high schools. 

The group also talked about the need to keep kids busy and engaged. 

"We need to take away their idle time and give them positive things going on in their life," Stephens said.

Attendees made suggestions on how to promote nonviolence among younger children, not just teens. Some suggestions included a mentor-mentee basketball tournament to promote good sportsmanship and lessen competitiveness that spills over from sports. Another suggestion was that conflict resolution should be introduced to health class curriculums in grade schools. 

A sentiment that echoed throughout the meeting was the need to get young people involved in the movement. Another was that it will take a continuous effort beyond April 28 to fix the violence problem in Columbia.

"It feels like we got an inch tonight, but we need a yard," Woods said.  

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Greg Allen April 11, 2012 | 8:52 a.m.

Whether we have real gangs or just wannabes, what they provide is a sense of family and common purpose where it's lacking in a young person's life. And in order for a young person to feel part of a good family, it has to start very early in life. Parenting is SO important, and the community behind that is as well.

When a person doesn't feel personally effective or powerful, picking up a gun is instant power. Without respect for other people or life, this gets deadly. So a big part of the needed parenting is to guide children into achieving things and feeling confident in his or her abilities, and spread this into instilling a sense of community belonging and responsibility. It's not a short-term thing: a child is a commitment of many years for the parent.

It's sad that it took two deaths to get this conversation going. But let's get it going.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble April 11, 2012 | 9:18 a.m.

Greg Allen: very eloquent words, and very true. Thank you.

(Report Comment)
frank christian April 11, 2012 | 10:09 a.m.

Kevin, Gregg reads almost as though he were promoting Christianity!

I hope none of the public officials at that meeting mentioned God, heaven, hell, or the 10 Commandments. Our culture began it's change after the advent of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the ACLU. Still, the "Wall" must be maintained!

(Report Comment)
Glenn Robertson April 11, 2012 | 10:55 a.m.

The problem stems from the value system the youth embrace which seems to be violence and disrespect, but the major issue is the lack of a male mentor, father or role model which give them (young men) their socialization on how they should respond and act, also education gives them ideas on how to solve issues without violence. I commend those who are standing for the violence to cease which needs a grassroots movement.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 11, 2012 | 12:37 p.m.

("One suggestion was to create stronger parent and teacher associations and have them create a stronger presence in the junior high and high schools."
"Another suggestion was that conflict resolution should be introduced to health class curriculums in grade schools.")
It made me feel like I contributed something of meaning when I read that two of my suggestions were placed in the above article. Others had good ideas as well and they were written on the easel paper as the room brainstormed for ideas and suggestions. I'd like to comment that while a suggestion for contributions of drivable cars to be given to "deserving" youths in the community sounded interesting, I would think that a better public bus system in this city might be just as important, considering that you can't even get to Woodcrest on a Sunday with the public bus system we currently have.
And as for my suggestions at the meeting, at least the reporter for the Missourian heard me.
I don't believe the superintendent of this town's public school system, who sat up front, will implement either suggestion as he seems to answer more to the school board members, and does a great PR job on everyone else, as amiable and likable a fellow that he may be.
Not one school board member attended from what I could see, nor any city council reps, let alone the first ward's. (Although these problems are city-wide and have been a long time brewing.)
I just hope that as this group expands and continues its good work that they get more than just lip service from the mainstream leadership of this town.
I look forward to this Thursday's meeting at the Armory and challenge city council members and school board representatives to make a showing.
It was especially hope fulfilling to see and hear some teenagers and "toughies" from our town attend and speak their piece. While it would have been nice to see more dads at the meeting, at least there will be a peer-to-peer dynamic developing to combat the efforts of gang recruiters and give our youth a healthy choice for meaningful purpose.

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis April 11, 2012 | 12:54 p.m.

Ray, I didn't know anything about the meeting, thank's for letting us know about the one Thursday. Do you have time info on it?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 11, 2012 | 1:07 p.m.

3pm was announced at last night's meeting.
I was just a peripheral attendee only hearing about the meeting during channel 17's news 6:30 news broadcast.
I felt a pull to attend and did so.
For any details, you might want to contact Demetria Stephens, assistant director of Job Point. She's an excellent resource person and has a lot going for her.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin April 11, 2012 | 3:38 p.m.

"It's sad that it took two deaths to get this conversation going. But let's get it going."

This "conversation" has been going for years now. It should have left the "conversation stage" years ago.

Almeta Crayton, Lorenzo Lawson, Glenn Cobbins, and more recently, Tyree Byndom and others have tried to lead it, and many more than two people have died, particularly in the black community.

Here are some examples, dating back a decade:

Rise in crime grabs hold of city’s interest. Police report surge in violence, launch multi-agency task force.

Homicide spurs vigil for nonviolence
Suspect’s grandmother asks for prayers.

Police beef up patrol efforts
Cops try for better links to neighborhoods.

First Ward crying out for action
Crayton seeks recruits from community.

Columbia Housing Authority, Crayton fret about gangs

Curfew talk attracts crowd of 50
Gathering becomes rally against violence.

I could type examples of this "conversation" until I'm blue in the face. It will keep going on, without resolution, because our leadership doesn't want to acknowledge it substantively or deal with it meaningfully.

On the acknowledgment front, Columbia has been fretting about gangs all 15 years I've been here, while at the same time our leaders deny they exist.

On the dealing with it front, City Hall and other agencies take in millions based on crime and poverty statistics, only to blow a lot of that money on self-enriching programs.

Poor neighborhoods, where much of this violence originates, continue to toil amidst crumbling infrastructure and well-meaning but misguided programs that provide paychecks to execs but little actual "boots on the ground" results.

As Almeta has famously said, "Quit borrowing my demographics to get money for programs that don't help me."

In recent years, we've heard about the need for a "public safety tax" to bring in yet more money.

But money without vision is meaningless, as our continued crime and violence programs attest.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin April 11, 2012 | 3:43 p.m.

Should read, "....continued crime and violence problems..." not "programs."

(Report Comment)

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