Stop the violence

Published 8:06 pm Saturday, August 14, 2010

Members of the Nansemond-Suffolk NAACP believe there’s a crisis among the youth of Suffolk, and they hope to step in and provide a solution.

With violence claiming the lives of three young people in Suffolk during the past year, including the Aug. 1 shooting of 18-year-old Lakeland High School student TyQuan Lewis, the NAACP leadership has decided to intervene, according to Charles S. Gates, president of the organization’s Nansemond-Suffolk chapter.

“We realized here in Suffolk that we have a major problem that exists here on the streets,” he said on Saturday. “That problem is violence. And the NAACP feels that now is the time to take a stand.”

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The organization’s Youth Council is leading an effort to find a “short-term solution” to the violence that has manifested itself in three murders and a variety of other crimes perpetrated by and against Suffolk youth in recent months.

But this is about more than having discussions, Gates stressed.

“There’s been too many meetings in this city, and all we do is talk,” he said. “Talk is cheap with no action.”

So Gates and the Youth Council have organized a meeting to be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Timothy Baptist Church, 1613 E. Washington Street, and they intend to make sure there’s a plan for action that can be set in motion before they leave the meeting.

“We don’t want to leave that room without some type of short-term solution,” he said. “The urgency of the situation calls for immediate action.”

Gates said he was approached with the idea for the meeting by the Youth Council’s leadership following the shooting death of Lewis after a fight broke out at a party.

Members of that council met in November on the same topic, he said. Since that time, there have been three murders in Suffolk — Lewis’; that of another Lakeland student, Michael Lee, in January; and the July shooting death of 25-year-old Alissa Johnson.

“This is a crisis on our hands,” Gates said.

He hopes that participants in the meeting will come up with inexpensive ideas for providing entertainment and engagement to Suffolk’s youth, along with venues for regular events to occupy and enrich them and volunteers to provide transportation.

Suffolk’s churches, he said, should step in and help.

In the past, he explained, most of the churches in the area have been willing to provide space on a regular basis only to their members. He hopes to find one or more that are willing to open their doors for events — whether talent shows, dance competitions, debates or other programs — and even provide transportation to and from those events.

“We’re looking for a commitment from our leaders in this town to have a short dialogue and take action,” he said. “We’ll come up with the programs. All we need is about three, four weeks to make it happen.”

Tuesday’s meeting will be in two parts. Participants who are 25 and younger will meet in the church sanctuary. Those who are older than 25 will meet in the annex across the street.