When I turned on my television recently, the first thing I heard was that another senseless murder had taken place in Jennings. Yet another life was lost due to the culture of violence in our community. Why do we keep doing this to each other? We deserve safe streets for our children to live and play on. We need to unite our communities to stop this violence.
About a year ago, I grew tired of preaching at funerals and began developing the idea for SIRV, The St. Louis Initiative to Reduce Violence. SIRV is a grassroots effort involving St. Louis communities, law enforcement, non-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, schools and community leaders dedicated to designing and implementing solutions to curb violence in our region.
We decided to launch the program and run a pilot project in two areas – Jennings and District 6 in the City of St. Louis. Violent crime (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault) is one and a half times higher in District 6 than in the rest of the City of St. Louis. It’s three times higher in Jennings than in St. Louis County overall.
After launching our grassroots efforts in these two communities this year, we will take what we learn and look to expand the program to other areas in our region.
As a pastor, I want to tell you about the importance of faith in reducing violence. Our faith-based task force will unite area pastors and faith communities to come together in solidarity, rally around a cause, help restore families, and have an open dialogue with community youth with the goal of building positive mentorship programs.
Many of our young people only know violence as a way to solve problems. When they become frustrated or insecure, their only outlet is through anger. This is the culture they have grown up in. This is the only culture they know. We need to stop it. It is our responsibility to take care of the children in our communities and make sure they do not go down the destructive path to violence.
The time to act is now. Today is the day we start taking back our streets. Today is the day we help children build faith and teach them about compassion, caring, and positive outlets for their anger. I am confident that together, we can change the culture of violence in St. Louis.
To learn more, or to donate to help the cause, go to www.SIRVstl.org.
Pastor B.T. Rice is president and chairman of New Horizon Christian Church, 1st vice president and chairman of police affairs for the St. Louis County Branch of the NAACP and president and chairman of SIRV.