KNOXVILLE (WATE) – WATE 6 On Your Side partnered with WBIR, WVLT and other media outlets for a town hall meeting called “Stop the Violence: A Community Conversation” in the wake of the shooting death of Fulton High School student Zaevion Dobson and several other incidents of violence.More online:Zaevion Dobson
The public was invited to attend the forum at Fulton High School and bring questions for a panel of 16 community leaders.
Numerous people stood in line to speak and ask for solutions to keep their kids safe.
“We need to have more things for our kids to do in their spare time. Everyone’s kid doesn’t play football and basketball in high school, so some kids come home with nothing to do,” said India McDowell with Heal the Land.
At times, comments were filled with emotions and pain.
“I’m only up here for one reason. I’m a product of change. I’m what we want to see. My source of change is Jesus Christ,” said former gang member Kwabena Miller.
“Our children can achieve things that existed in this community prior to urban renewal, so we don’t need to wait on a plan to operate. We need to pick up our history, strengthen ourselves and move forward,” said Rick Staples with 100 Black Men of Greater Knoxville.
It was clear an hourlong conversation wasn’t enough. Many questions went unanswered, but some walked away with hope for change.
“You want to be a mentor. You want to be a hero. Stop buying Jordans. Stop buying these other kids stuff. Be a role model to your kid,” said Elroy Wilson.
“If we don’t stop the violence, the violence will get way bigger and bigger,” said Antwain Burdine Jr.
Forum inspires boy, 12, to speak up about violence
The forum attracted some of the youngest people in the community to speak up. A 12-year-old boy asked some shocking questions to panel members.
Many cheered as Edward Chayehoi tool a bold stance during the forum, asking questions you wouldn’t expect to hear from a 12-year-old boy.
“Why did it take the death of a young black man to have this meeting?” he said.
The Vine Middle School student attracted big applause from the audience while highlighting some very important issues.
“For some reason, this went viral. It spread. I don’t think anybody can explain it,” said Chayehoi.
He was the only child to ask a question at the community forum, but says it was something he had to do.
“I feel like if I didn’t do it, somebody probably wouldn’t because these questions need to be answered in our community today,” he said.
Many in the audience felt the meeting was a good start.
“If it wasn’t for stuff like this happening tonight, when were we going to start? Were we going to wait for somebody else to go and die?” said Stan Johnson with SEEED Knox. “We can have all the community forums we want, but if we don’t actually do something, nothing will happen.”
Chayehoi hopes speaking up will prevent other senseless shootings.
“My message is I better not see it again,” he said.