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Officials seek end to violence

By Leesha Faulkner

The Selma Times-Journal

A group of about 60 people met in City Hall to work to bring an end to youth violence.

The meeting comes just days after Terry Webster was gunned down on Ethridge Street by several individuals in a car. Webster is the second person to die in recent months from a drive-by shooting.

“I know this is needed,” said Mayor George Evans. “We need to find a way to address the crime in our city.”

Evans said the community must work together to end violence in the city. He called on individuals, churches and other groups to work with police and city officials on the same goal.

The effort will begin soon with study circles established in every ward. Study circles are small, diverse groups of people who meet several times to talk about key issues in the community.

Ward 4 council member Angela Benjamin has worked as part of a study circle in another community. Now, she’s bringing the same thing home.

“The goal is to bring about positive change,” she said. “First, we will look at how youth violence has touched our lives. Then, we share our thoughts and beliefs about why youth violence continues to exist. Next, we look at different ways to reduce youth violence and some of the pros and cons associated with these possible approaches. then, we decide on the action ideas we feel are the best fit for our community. And finally, we will work together to take action on the best ideas that are selected.”

Others have planned events to draw attention to and deal with youth violence.

An anti-gang task force will work out of Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. Pastor John Grayson said he plans to have a gang expert out of Chicago come to church, talk about the issue and way the community could help.

“Its important for young people and their parents to be there,” Grayson said, adding he would announce a date for the meeting soon.

The Selma Youth Conference set for July 28-31, the brainchild of Benjamin, could also provide another way of getting to the issue of youth violence.

Council member Sam Randolph of Ward 5 and the Pride of Alabama Elks No. 1170 hold regular Smokeout Violence events to draw attention to how police can help citizens and vice versa. Ward 4 will provide the next cookout setting at a time to be announced later, Randolph said.

Derrick Tate, a young man who attended the meeting, seemed to sum up the frustrations of youth, saying, “Youth violence looks like a lack of leadership. Folks will say they won’t correct someone because ‘that’s not my child.’ Children need somebody to go to. They need for someone to correct them.”