PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Community activists, politicians and residents attended an emergency community meeting in Homewood to start creating a plan of action to curtail gun violence.
"There's been an increase in the violence in the Black community. A lot of young people are losing their lives. The carnage has to stop. We're saying enough is enough," said Rashad Byrdsong, the CEO of Community Empowerment Association.
Community Empowerment Association hosted the meeting in Homewood on Thursday night. As an urgent cry for change, Byrdsong issued a call to action to the community at large. He asked community stakeholders to roll up their sleeves to start coming up with a comprehensive plan.
"There are multiple things we need to do. We need to invest into the communities that these young boys are in, invest in education, invest in employment and training. Police need to be part of this broader conversation. The mayor's office, the county executive, all of us have to be able to come together and sit down and come up with a comprehensive plan that includes the community," Byrdsong said.
Byrdsong said he has spent 25 years helping the youth and preventing violence. He knows the pain of this type of loss all too well. His grandson, Jafar Brooks, was 15 years old when he was shot and killed in Penn Hills in December 2020.
There have been about 90 homicides in Allegheny County in 2021. A vast majority of the victims have been in their teens and 20s.
"These kids should be having fun, graduating from high school, should be getting ready to go to college, but yet they're in the grave. That is an emergency, an emergency of Black life," Byrdsong said.
Byrdsong and others in attendance wanted Thursday's get-together to be more than just another meeting where people talk.
State Representative and mayoral candidate Ed Gainey said the root cause of this violence needs to be eradicated.
"The violence in the city has to stop. We're losing too many young people, 14-, 15-, 16-year-old kids getting up with murder on their mind," Gainey said.
Those involved believe now is not the time to sit in silence, but now is the time to collaborate and take action.
"I'd like to see change in my community. I am tired of seeing our children gunned down with gun violence," said Homewood resident Barbara Daniels. "I would like to be here so we can be solution-oriented as a community and come together and not talk about the problems but talk about a plan, develop a plan for all of us to come together to help one another because we're all suffering from this."
Byrdsong brought up several ideas in the meeting, including the need for a service directory and a way to collaborate with one another. Byrdsong added that more investments in violence prevention programs are needed.
Byrdsong said the community at large needs to be a part of this effort. He wants to continue communicating and holding frequent meetings until a plan is finalized. Anyone who wants to help can reach out to Community Empowerment Association here.
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