ELKHART — The tone was optimistic. The goal, simple.
“We want to heal our city, even if it’s one person at a time,” said Robert Taylor, an Elkhart resident who brought parents and children together Thursday, Aug. 1, for an evening of discussion about the community at the Roosevelt Center’s gym.
“Stop the Violence and Drop the Guns Unity Rally,” an event created by Taylor, included musical performances, poetry and free food.
The children in attendance were invited to sit closer to the stage because the event was primarily geared toward them.
Taylor invited people who work at youth organizations or have been affected by violence in their community to talk about their experience or about how the community can help make their neighborhoods safer.
The speakers were:
Kimi Jackson, whose 7-year-old daughter Kristyana was killed in an Aug. 17, 2012, assault outside their house
Rodney Dale, division fire chief of services at the Elkhart Fire Department
Jermaine Sanders, founder of My Hood Needz Me
Julian Barhams, whose 16-year-old brother, Braxton, was killed June 22, just a block away from his house
Melinda Riley, education supervisor at Tolson Center
Akyah Taylor, Robert Taylor’s daughter
Jackson thanked the community for its continuous support and told the children in attendance to be respectful and to choose an alternative to violence.
Dale talked about personal experiences involving violence. He talked about the importance of knowing there are consequences to every action, and as an example he talked about a childhood friend of his who was convicted of murder in 1994.
Taylor said though he was expecting a higher number of people in attendance, he was happy to get his message about community support out to those who did go out to the event.
And he hopes the rally Thursday was the beginning of a series of discussions among the community.
Although they talked about the misuse of gun and violence, the panel talked about positive aspects in the community as well, prompting children to be tolerant, respectful and involved.
“The bad things (about the community) are always shown,” he said. “But there are a lot of good things going on too.”