City unites to cope with violence
BAKER—IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS, CITIZENS OF BAKER HAVE BEEN coming together to keep their young people from falling victim to tragic statistics.
According to a study conducted by The Center for American Progress, Louisiana has the highest gun-homicide rate among young people age 19 and younger.
The severity of that study’s results became a harsh reality on March 28, when teenagers gathered for a birthday party and music video shoot at the Baker Civic Club, that would leave three of their peers dead and one hospitalized.
Marcell Franklin, 15, Kendal Dorsey, 15, and Diontrey Claiborne, 18, were killed when shots were fired at the party. Javaughn Simmons, 19, was hospitalized and is expected to live.
Tresa Jones, who is a Baker resident and founding member of Parents Against Violent Exposure (PAVE), said her teenage daughter asked her to take her and friends to what she said was a birthday party at the Civic Club.
“I trust my daughter and I couldn’t tell what it was, but something just didn’t sit well with me and I almost didn’t let her go,” Jones said.
Jones continued by saying that she felt more at ease once at the Civic Club, seeing other parents dropping their children off, although that assuredness went along with her assumption that the party would have security provided by law-enforcement. A few hours later, she got call from her daughter that proved her feeling of intuition wasn’t one she should’ve ignored.
said that even though he had his own bad intuition about the now-deadly event, intuition is legally not enough to shut down a party.
“I saw the flyer for the party just by looking at it I had feeling it was a recipe for a not-so-good situation,” Knaps said.
The event was posted on the popular social media website, Facebook. Knaps said this was one of the things that made him feel uncomfortable about the party.
“When you put an event up on social media about a social gathering, it is hard to control the type of people that come to the event,” Knaps said.
Based on those concerns, he said chief investigator Darryl Rainwater told former Baker Civic Club board member Janet Mosley that the chief was worried about the party. Mosely brought the concern to Civic Club President Hazel Mitchell, who responded she was legally bound to the contract signed with the people holding the party.
Baker police have arrested a 16-year-old boy accused of three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of illegal use of a weapon.
Starlett Speed, a teacher at Glasgow Middle Schoolsaid that this generation of studentsis so connected to social media, that they are more concerned with updating their Facebook status than their interpersonal skills.
Unfortunately for Speed, seeing the harsh effects of gun violence on her students is nothing new.
“I lost one student who was murdered and I also taught the student who was accused of murdering him, that was really hard to take,” Speed said. “We live in such a microwave society where everything is so quick now, sometimes young people don’t take time think about the consequences of their actions.”
Speed said she always wanted a career that was more rewarding, thatwould allow her to give back and impact young people. So she left her job in banking for a career in education because she knew that career path would allow her to make a difference.
As a teacher, she has come across a variety of students, some who showed signs of strong academic promise and those who didn’t see a value in education.
“Students need to see someone they can relate to, you have to reach to teach,” she said. “If you do it the other way around you’ll never reach your students. I tried that way when I began teaching, it was one of the worst mistakes I made.”
Since she began her career six years ago she has lost a total of three students to gun violence.
“Students needs some someone they can talk to, I try to be there for my students and told them if they have information and are scared to tell, tell me and I will tell [the police] for them.”
Speed said she believes in implementing more school-sponsored social activities as a means to alleviate the need for students attend functions at venues that do not provide accurate safety.
And now, in Baker that trying to have fun has lead to tragedy after tragedy, the city is looking for answers.
“We want to know why everything happened and not that it just happened and who did it-we want to heal the community,” Knaps said. “We are still interviewing witnesses. Anytime two set eyes of look at something, they each see it differently, we want to know what every eye saw.”
As police continue to put together the puzzle, citizens continue to come together to find ways to prevent tragedies like this from happening again. One organization that is trying to keep teens safe and prevent gun violence among them is Jones’ group, PAVE.
“Children have forgotten about love. There is a lot of hate causing this violence, so we want to bring back love,” said Beverly Turner a founding member of PAVE. “We want to create unity is this community through activities that unite parents, children, and community leaders.”
On April 11, PAVE paid tribute the shooting victims with a peace march that started at the Baker Civic Club. According to Jones, this is only one of the activities the group will host to help the community to heal.
“We started Parents Against Violent Exposure to get parents to teach their children to think about their decisions,” Jones said. “If parents begin planting the seed in the home, when children are away from their parents, they will be more likely to stop and think about the consequences of their actions.”
To be involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org