ELKHART — A group of Elkhart high school students are tired of the violence in the community and took a stand this weekend to stop it.
About 30 teens gathered at the Roosevelt Center, 215 E. Indiana Ave., on Saturday, Sept. 7 for a march to end violence and gang activity in the community.
Ashley Bonds, 16, organized the march in memory of Elkhart shooting victims including her friend, Braxton “Smirf” Barhams, who was killed in a June drive-by shooting.
“We’re tired of the violence and wannabe gang bangers,” Bonds said. “It makes us all look bad.”
“We want to support the people and their families that have been injured or killed with guns, “ said 15-year-old Da-Brena Bates. “We want to tell people, ‘Don’t be influenced to do what people around you are doing. It’s not OK and safe.’”
Bonds distributed fliers at Elkhart Memorial High School and around the neighborhood to advertise the march, and community organization “My Hood Needz Me” posted a notice on Facebook.
The march came after a particularly bloody week in Elkhart. A burglary suspect was shot and killed by police on Sunday, Sept. 1 after he pointed a gun at police officers and two men were shot and killed in a convenience store on Thursday morning, Sept. 5. Pastor Jermaine Sanders, founder of “My Hood Needz Me,” sent the group out with a prayer and commended them for taking a stand.
“I believe in y’all,” Sanders said. “You’re doing a great thing.”
The teens marched from the Roosevelt Center down East Garfield Avenue to Benham Avenue, where they paused at the house where Barhams was shot. They gathered in a circle in the back yard of the white house at the corner of Garfield and Benham for a prayer as rain began to fall.
Jayrielle Stair led the short prayer, in which she asked for an end to the “negativity, violence and gangbanging” in the community.
Several of the marchers became emotional standing at the site where their friend was killed.
A woman who declined to give her name approached the group to offer her support.
“I just wanted to meet them and encourage them,” she said.