DECATUR — At just 16, Jamere Singleton has already felt the pain of losing a loved one to gun violence.
“My cousin was murdered a few months ago,” he said. “It was a difficult time to manage. Everything is still fresh. »
Shemilah Outreach Center, a local youth organization that includes Singleton and many of his peers, organized a peace march to address community violence and concerns. On Saturday afternoon, the Youth Peace March Against Violence made its way down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from Hess Park to the Decatur Civic Center.
Singleton said he hoped the event would bring attention to their concerns. “We just want to educate everyone,” he said.
Singleton found the outreach center a place to find peace, even before tragedy struck his family.
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“It’s a good program,” he said. “There is a lot of gun violence. This is something that can help prevent and raise awareness.
Once the walkers arrived at their destination, community members and leaders spoke about the importance of reaching young people and working together.
Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe spoke about safety in the city. “We are all committed to trying to support our police, to support our organizations, to help find a future in this community,” she said.
According to Deloyde Sanders, president of the Shemilah Outreach Center, young people and adults alike are ready for a change.
“We are tired of violence,” he said. “The young people who came to the center were asking: ‘Can we organize something’, like this march for peace, to raise awareness.
Plans to hold the march began nearly six months ago, according to Sanders, before the deaths of 19 children and two teachers last week at an elementary school in Texas. Community center managers often encourage young people to express themselves. “Young people, not just business, but young people are tired of violence,” Sanders said.
Sanders held a similar march in 2021. “I want to hold an event like this every year, just before summer starts,” he said. “But our community needs to come out and make a change. It is a movement. »
His daughter Shemilah Sanders, 22, died on June 9, 2020, after being shot in the head a few nights before as she tried to flee a crowd involved in an argument near the underpass on East Garfield Avenue.
In addition to youth from the Shemilah Outreach Center, the two-mile march included members of the Boys and Girls Club, politicians and other community groups and members. “This is just the start of something big,” said Shemuel Sanders.
Local law enforcement and religious leaders were called upon and admired for their work in the community and with young people. However, Devon Joyner, executive director of Old King’s Orchard, issued a call for action. “We have a responsibility to be held accountable for what we do,” he said. “It starts at home”
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Terrence “Tat” Taylor spoke about his upbringing in Decatur and the adults who trusted him. “Young people, know that you have values,” he said. “You have a voice.”
As the Democratic candidate for Illinois’ 13th congressional district, David Palmer said he remembers seeing similar events as a child.
“I wouldn’t have a good time,” he said. “But I tell you, they want to hold you accountable. They want you to have the life you deserve.
Illinois Senator Doris Turner highlighted the marchers and the diversity of the crowd.
“This is what our community looks like. This is the partnership we will need if we are to make a difference in our community,” she said. “The walk is not over. Everyone has a role to play. »
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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR