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Benjamin hosts annual anti-violence event

On Tuesday evening, Selma City Council President Pro Tem Angela Benjamin hosted her annual “Stop the Violence” event at the Selma Performing Arts Center.

Benjamin’s event was billed as a “community gathering,” a somber event aimed at remembering those that have perished at the hands of violent crimes and fostering kinship among those that attended.

“This is a community gathering to remember those who lost loved ones and remember the families that are still and yet affected by this and remember that our city is also affected when this happens,” Benjamin said. “I wanted people to meet different people, people that maybe live across town from one another, and get them to start talking.”

The evening began with attendees simply meeting and talking with one another, enjoying refreshments provided by Domino’s Pizza, before a prayer and a talk about the effects of violence and bullying.

Afterwards, attendees broke into smaller, “intimate” sessions – the family members of victims took a seat at various tables and those attendance rotated from one table to the next, talking with those familes and trying to find a resolution.

“They got so deep into it that they just wanted to continue on,” Benjamin said. “The time was well spent. People started talking to the family members and that’s when the tears started flowing.”

Each roundtable discussion focused on a single question – How are you today? How can I help you? What’s next? – and Benjamin said those in attendance came up with a wide array of answers, so much so that separate events might be planned in the future that employ the same format in an effort to get citizens talking with one another and understanding each other better.

Benjamin noted that the aim of making residents familiar with one another extended beyond simply introducing neighbors to neighbors.

“If I’m familiar with you, I’m less likely to gun you down in the street,” Benjamin said. “[Those in attendance] made a vow that they would talk the next time they see each other on the street, they will start communicating and become familiar with each other.”

A candlelight vigil was held and names were added to the banner of victims – not as many as last year, Benjamin said, but still too many.