Activists, faith leaders, law enforcement, and residents calling for collaboration to slow violence

FLINT, Michigan -- Terae King Jr., 19, a community activist and political science major at the University of Michigan-Flint, puts it succinctly when describing how violence impacts him.

"Violence in the community affects me hard because my generation is either a suspect or victim of violence,” he said. “We are looked down upon because of a few bad actors.”

King was among dozens of residents, including local law enforcement, elected officials, and community activists, gathered at Ballenger Park to pray for the City of Flint on May 1.

Longtime community activist and Sixth Ward city council candidate Tonya Burns coordinated this effort in light of the uptick in violence throughout the city

"I organized the event because the senseless shootings in the city Of Flint are out of control,” she said. “Mothers and fathers are losing their children to senseless gun violence. I didn't have a plan; all I knew was that we needed a starting point. I have always believed and stood on my faith in God. With prayer, we can come together to talk about solutions."

She called on a few faith-based leaders to bring this to fruition. Pastor Freelon Threlkeld of Faith Baptist Church, Minister Shearese Stapleton, executive director and founder of Mothers of Joy University, and Minister Tarnesa Martin, patient resource and community advocate, led the community prayer and call to action. Some kneeled, held hands, and stood in solidarity as attendees prayed for law enforcement officials, medical personnel, the youth, and many other pressing issues faced by our city.

"All of the links of the chain must be intertwined for us to be effective. It takes everyone to make a difference," said First Ward Councilman Eric Mays. This message didn't fall upon deaf ears. Citizens are motivated to step up and be the change.  

Stephanie Rodgers, a longtime Flint resident, decided that it was time to get off of the sidelines and accept the challenge to get involved.

"I moved back to Flint in 2018, and this is not the Flint I remember,” she said. “My family lives in the Sixth Ward. They should be able to work in the yard without dodging bullets.”

Community champion and radio personality Dr. Lee Bell charged everyone in attendance to be encouraged and to encourage one another. "I still have hope because I believe my generation has so much to offer,” Bell said. “We need an 'all hands on deck’ approach with young people taking an active part of the conversation." 

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley encouraged all residents to vote in support of the public safety millage on the May 4 ballot at their local precinct. Others wishing to get more involved in the community should contact Carma Lewis, president of Flint Neighborhoods United (FNU), at [email protected] or (810) 280-6344 for more information.  

Read more articles by Ladel Lewis.

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