As adults chanted “Save our families! Stop the violence!” around him Saturday, 12-year-old Trai Mitchell quietly marched along a 1-mile route through downtown carrying a sign he had made with a few of his friends.
He was one of about 250 people who came out to May Park for the second annual March Against Violence.
Trai said he was there “to encourage people not to do violence.”
Organizer Patricia Hicks said the 38 homicides in Richmond County in 2010 alarmed her enough to take action. She started a mentoring program in River Glen Apartments, the scene of three homicides since May 2011.
“(The march) is something the kids wanted to do,” she said.
A rally featuring speakers, gospel music and mimes followed the march, which started at May Park and went up to Telfair Street before returning to the park. Hicks also introduced nearly two dozen representatives from organizations and churches that offer programs for youth.
Many people at the event have been touched by violence.
Unique Mother said she grew up with domestic violence in her home. She found no refuge in her neighborhood, as there was more violence and black-on-black crime there, she said.
As she became an adult and broadened her horizons, she saw it didn’t have to be that way.
“I started making positive changes within myself,” she said.
Now she is a mentor and speaks out against violence through spoken word.
“I want to stop the violence in our communities,” she said. “I want to see more lives lived longer than 20. I want something to pass on to my children.”
Violence can touch anybody, Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders told the crowd after the march. His 16-year-old cousin, Kyle Royal, was shot and killed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He said it remains Richmond County’s only unsolved homicide of 2012.
“My family is a victim, as of this year, and I’m a judge,” he said.
Naomi Moody said her nephew was shot and killed in New York, but she feels fortunate that is as close as violence has come to her. Her children are grown and her grandchildren are small, and all are doing well.
Still, she does worry that she or one of her loved ones will become a victim of a violent crime any time they step outside of the house.
“I do worry in the sense that you never know,” she said. “It’s cause for concern.”