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West Side Community Leaders Spark Grassroots Movement To End Violence

Reported: May. 26, 2014 5:42 PM EDT
Updated: May. 26, 2014 6:00 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Taisha Walker) -- Every crime on the West Side helps to paint a negative image of that area of Charleston to some people. But people who live within that community are working hard to change that perception through a grassroots movement.

Hundreds of community members unified twice since April to walk, rally and pray that the violence on the West Side stops. Now that those Guns Down, Hands Up to Pray marches are over, community members are holding out hope that yearning for change will stick with the youth.

Jabbar Thomas, a Human Resources Development Foundation employee, said the primary way to bring about change on the West Side is to focus on the children.

"It's very important to get out and reach them and change it," Thomas said. "I don't like to come on the West Side, so I don't come out at night at certain parts of town because a stray bullet can hit anybody."

Last Wednesday, hundreds of people marched through the streets of Charleston to plead with people ages 14 to 25 to stay away from drugs and weapons. In turn, the community offered a way off the streets and into a classroom or job setting.

The Rev. Wayne Crozier with Abundant Life Ministries said the church community will follow up with anyone needing help to better their lives.

"So if someone signs up to get their GED we want to make sure someone follows up with them and say, 'Hey, you signed up to get a GED do you need a ride?' To make sure they have a trade. So they have options," Crozier said.

Additional marches could be in the works, but community members hope they won't be triggered by another violent act on the West Side.

There have not been any reports of violence on that part of town since the first unity march a month ago.



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