LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)– Local civil rights organization, The Village 337, held a meeting Monday night to talk about crime and other issues impacting the community.
Parish Councilman Abraham “AB” Rubin, Judge Royal Colbert, and Judge Jules Edwards III were among the city leaders present at the meeting. Pastors and community members were also present, each hoping to find a solution to reduce violence in the community.
“We need to get programs implemented, and we get behind everybody that has a program implemented and don’t just sit back and point the finger,” Councilman A.B. Rubin said.
Councilman Rubin organized a “Safe Haven” program last summer. The program was held in Girard Park on Saturday nights to give the youth something to do indoors. While the program was successful, Rubin said he is not sure if it will be happening again as the summer is around the corner. He believes it will take sacrifice and love to help the teens in the community.
Councilman Rubin said he attended the meeting not only as a city leader but a concerned parent. He remembers fearing for his own daughter due to a shooting in Moore Park during Senior Skip Day.
Sunday, Lafayette Police responded to a shooting in Heymann Park. Three people, including a 17-year-old boy, a 35-year-old man, and a 55-year-old woman, were injured but have been reported to be in stable condition.
Devon Norman, the President and Director of Village 337, tells News 10 the teenager was his first cousin who was only in the park to have a good time.
According to Norman, the teen is preparing to graduate high school and is known for playing football. Norman is worried about how the shooting will impact his cousin’s future.
“This is why I do what I do because I’m tired of going through this. I’m tired of seeing my family go through this. I’m tired of watching the mothers, my aunts weep and wail, and fathers look hopeless and broken because they can’t keep their children from this. They can’t protect their children from this,” he said.
“Over 100 gunshots went off. One of my cousins who is in law enforcement explained it as it seems as if people just started shooting because they hear gunshots, and that is a dangerous place for us to be as a society. When people just shoot because they hear shots. That means everybody got a gun, and everybody is just shooting, thinking that it’s going to protect them from a bullet, and guns don’t protect us from bullets,” Norman also said.
Members of the organization agree that any solution will start with healing.
Bishop John Wayne Milton said, “The question that I ask everybody is, when did our children get healed? When was the healing done? And when we look at the condition that we see in our community, this rampant in our community today, I believe that it is all connected to the history that we’ve not come up with solutions.”
Dr. Chris Williams, an advocate, suggested as a call to action, “What we’re saying is that we’re going to create a 24-hour period just for us to love on each other to try and work this out because nobody else is going to do it.”
“A safe space where people can come and actually get the help that they need. Be it one or one or in a group session but it’s needed because if we just continue to hurt. Hurt people hurt people, right?” said Consuela Gaines, the Chapter Organizer for V.O.T.E.
Gaines said the first step is acknowledging that the community has been hurt and needs help.
“This thing has come to all our doorsteps, and we can not pretend we don’t see it, and we can not hold everybody else responsible while we’re doing nothing about it,” said Bishop Alton Gaitlin.
Gaitlin asked where can a parent find help with an 11,12, or 13-year-old, before their behavior leads to arrests.
Judge Royal Colbert said the room should have been full of members of the community.
It should be filled with the people who were in Heymann Park yesterday[Sunday]. It should be filled with the people who’re on my docket this morning or who Judge Garrett got in court right now; those people’s parents, that’s what should be filled,” he said.
As many questions about how to get the people that need help and guidance into the safe spaces, one man commented it starts by going to meet the people in need in their neighborhoods and communities.
“How many of y’all went out there and hugged one of them thugs with a gun and said tonight’s not the night you die, and until you start getting out there and start hugging on these folks at their area and in their space, they ain’t never going to show up in this space,” he said.
The organization plans to achieve a 24-hour goal of no killings by hosting a healing event at Heymann Park at 3 p.m. on Friday.