Image courtesy: Associated Press
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Hundreds of people have organized around the Stop It Community Initiative to stop violence in this city. It's not the first time concerned citizens have met to address the problem.
In May of 2005, community leaders gathered at the Grand Rapids Police Department in a unified show of strength and concern borne of a rash of shootings. Pastor Arthur Bailey, speaking then, told WZZM 13: "There is a lot of people without hope and we believe with that, the violence has the potential to increase." Concerns about that escalation caused the cancellation then of a popular basketball event in Grand Rapids, the Macker Jam.
In 2006, city police and preachers hosted a series of community meetings, mostly in southeast side churches about what to do about violence. A report from those meetings, revealed in October of 2006, cited 147 reasons for the violence.
In June of 2009, many of the same community leaders called a press conference to promote their "peacekeepers" program. It was an effort City Commissioner Jim White said then, "to go out into the streets and embrace our young people - to let them know that we love them and there are alternatives to violence."
At about that time, a website appeared:http://www.stopgrviolence.org that was the effort of Pastor Daniel Parker. Though the site has not been updated in years, a spokesperson for Parker said "we continue in our pursuit to alleviate violence in the Greater Grand Rapids area through a variety of mechanisms." Kingdom Life Ministries Community Development Corporation (KLMCDC) in the fight against GR violence has developed a Life Skills Program that targets youth in grades 6th - 9th."
And now, in 2013, following a wave of violence that began in December of 2012, hundreds of concerned citizens have launched what they say is "the very strategic approach of taking a two-pronged approach: systems and grass roots" aimed at ending violence.
Pastor Stedford Sims, a participant in previous efforts, feels this one has the potential to succeed where others have not. "I haven't seen that in the past - I've seen different factions do their part, but I've never really witnessed the city come together from all the stakeholders - right? And that's what's different and so I am hopeful."