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Richmond leaders, advocates say grassroots efforts are key in curbing violence

Richmond leaders, advocates say grassroots efforts are key in curbing violence
Posted at 11:44 PM, Dec 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 00:37:20-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Inside a Southside Richmond church on Thursday, the conversation heated up on how to curb the violence and get support for community prevention efforts that already had boots on the ground in the city.

"The reason why a lot of these kids are here shooting and killing each other is because they don't trust anybody," said community activist Queen Richardson. "You have to be there when you're not needed."

Richardson was among the crowd at New Life Deliverance Tabernacle, discussing solutions to a troubling trend.

So far in 2021, there have been 80 homicides, the highest number reported in more than a decade.

"We have to go into all of the city. This is a city-wide movement, this is a city-wide need, this is a city-wide burden, this is a city-wide situation," said Reverend Donte' McCutchen with Love Cathedral Community Church.

Pastor Robert Winfree with New Life Deliverance Tabernacle hosted the meeting and invited grassroots community organizations to come out and speak to city leaders about their efforts to reduce violence in the community.

“A lot of people just think all I do is prayer vigils. That's the last thing I want to do. Every prayer vigil, I tell folks, put me out of the prayer vigil business please. Because if I'm doing a prayer vigil, then nine times out of 10 it’s because somebody’s been killed or it’s been a homicide," said Charles Willis, Executive Director of United Communities Against Crime.

He and multiple others who spoke about their nonprofits Thursday said they hoped to have their work funded.

"I’ve had three mayors, including the one this year, that said they’d help United Communities Against Crime -- guess what? I haven’t seen a dime," said Willis.

Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch said she was a strong believer that grassroots community organizations were where the answers were.

"So how do we get the funding to align with the people who are doing the work?" She said.

Lynch said there was $1.5 million coming down the pipeline for gun violence prevention funding. She hoped to see as much of that as possible go toward these community organizations.

Reggie Gordon, DCAO of Human Services for the City of Richmond, said they planned to create a Steering Committee comprised of community members to help decide how to spend the funds.

"We have five years to spend that $1.5 million, and how we decide, based on the recommendations from the gun violence task force but also new ideas, we say does it fit or match a void that needs to be filled?"

"And to Sandra’s point, is this a group that seems like they’ve been doing it and getting some good results?" said Gordon. "It won’t be me, it won’t be the city — but that steering committee compromised of community members to make that decision."

Pastor Winfree said it was clear that community organizations were stronger when they worked together.

"I hope that we have the information we need so we can come together as one unit," he said.

Local advocate, Tracey Scott, urged the groups there to do just that.

"People in this town work in silos, it’s all about individualism because I got to get mine. We afraid that if we let someone in, the pie is going to split too many ways. And meanwhile our children are out perishing in the streets," Scott said. "It's like playing checkers with these kids' lives."