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Greensboro community gathers to address youth and gun violence


More than 200 community members concerned about youth and gun violence gathered at Warnersville Recreation Center for a discussion on how to address this sensitive topic.

Facilitated by Det. Corey Johnson and the Greensboro Police Department, the program was an opportunity for community members to connect to youth programs and resources that help support the youth.

“This program came about because of the things that I have seen over the past couple of years,” said Det. Corey Johnson. “As a homicide detective here in Greensboro, I have witnessed firsthand the aftermath of gun violence here in our community. I have also witnessed that both the victims and the suspects are getting younger and younger. I hoped to get people into the room so that we can start the conversation on how to end this situation.”

There were more than 200 attendees, including panel speakers, members of law enforcement and representatives from 10 community organizations.

First panel of speakers were Greensboro Police Department Assistant Chief Stephanie Mardis, Guilford County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council Chairperson Lisa McMillan, and Greensboro Police Attorney Kwame Opata, to speak on gun violence from a legal perspective.

“I think we can do the work together. We need to let these young kids know, just like I found out, that there’s nothing wrong with picking up a book,” said Opata, adding, “and they need to feel safe in their communities.”

The City of Greensboro has had 69 homicides so far this year, according to GPD data.

“We’ve got to collectively hear enough about what’s happening in our own backyard to raise hell about it. We’re almost at 70 homicides this year. An overwhelming majority of those victims and suspects are Black and Brown people,” said Mardis.

The second panel of speakers represented organizations that work directly with victims’ families through the funeral and grief process: Shan Carter, Forever29 Foundation; Tonya Cuthbertson, Mothers Standing Against Gun Violence; and Dr. Irish Spencer, Families Against Senseless Killings. Each of these organizations were also established by people who lost a loved one to gun violence.

Cuthbertson asked the young people in the room what’s the hardest thing about life for them. They answered with things like school, home life and overwhelmingly, the need to find employment.

“I need for all of you to be good. I need you to be able to have jobs and become homeowners,” she said. “Every last one of us in this room has an assignment now ─ reaching out to the youth and helping them find a job. Get these babies some help before they end up in those numbers,” said Cuthbertson.

Spencer noted that the issue is something that must be taken up by the community, more than the police.

“The police are in reactive mode. They can never be proactive because they’re constantly being reactive to something that the community should be proactive about,” said Spencer.

Faith-based organizations also joined in the conversation at Saturday’s meeting.

Pastor Lovelle McMichael, Greater New Hope in High Point, encouraged the idea of “parent academies” or monthly seminars that would give parents access to resources, counseling services and information on their child’s academic development.

“We can’t put all the responsibility on the children. Churches are in the right place to provide additional support to parents so that they can instill in their children the things that they need to,” he said.

The last community conversation took place in June and Det. Johnson said he is hoping to make this meeting a quarterly event.

Johnson said, “I hope that the people in attendance recognize that we are all feeling the same way and that we all want to find solutions to this problem. I hope that people really took the opportunity to network so that we can collaborate on future efforts.”