KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — On Friday, community members had the opportunity to share their anger, and heartbreak they’ve been feeling as well as make calls for change over the increase in recent violence involving teenagers.
The event was held at the Change Center. It was organized by several community groups and churches including Word of Life Ministries, Overcoming Believers Church and WJBE. Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie sponsored the event. It’s all in response to the recent fatal shootings in which three Austin-East Magnet High School students died.
As a member of a community that has been ravaged with gun violence and death, it was important for Linda Conner to attend the meeting.
“I’m here representing my 6th district. Most of these children have died in my district,” Conner said.
Some of those children were classmates with Austin-East junior Briashay Moore, which is why she spoke as well.
“I feel like my school is being dragged down and is being blamed for everything and they’re making it seem like my school is the problem when my school isn’t the problem. My school keeps us out of danger. It keeps us off the street, it keeps us safe during those 8 hours that we’re in school. They can’t control what happens after 3:30,” Moore said.
Several community organizations were present, speaking out against the violence and sharing what services they have to offer to keep youth out of trouble.
This was a night about listening and understanding what resources are available. It was the first of many small steps to build trust, connections and find peace in this community again.
There will be another meeting next Friday, Feb, 26 at the Change Center. This next meeting will be geared more toward the youth in the community.