Back-to-School Rally Shares Message to Youth About Gun Violence - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Back-to-School Rally Shares Message to Youth About Gun Violence

Event volunteers give students free sneakers and cleats at back-to-school rally. Event volunteers give students free sneakers and cleats at back-to-school rally.

SALISBURY, Md. -- Just in time for a new semester a number of students in Salisbury hit the school supply jackpot at a back-to-school giveaway event Thursday evening.

The "Guns Down, Minds Up" back-to-school rally was hosted by the social advocacy group Extraordinary League of Gentleman.

Students from all ages received free backpacks filled with pencils, glue and other school supplies, as well as brand new running shoes and cleats in an assortment of colors for boys and girls.

Jermichael Mitchell, the event organizer with the League, says its about bringing positivity to some of Salisbury's underserved neighborhoods, and to much of the youth who need a little more encouragement.

"[It's about] getting our kids to understand that you don't need a weapon in our community to know what's going on, or to feel empowered," said Mitchell.

"Empowerment is your mind. That's what you got to do: empower these kids minds. So put the guns down and start thinking differently," he said.

A wave of recent violence in Salisbury has prompted many community leaders to take a stand against gun violence, including the mother of 17-year old Rakim Russell who was murdered earlier this month.

Russell's mother Shanell Johnson attended the rally to encourage students to finish their education, reminding them that life is too short to make the wrong decisions that could have life-changing impacts.

"We have to know better to do better," said April Jackson, a commissioner with Wicomico County Parks and Recreation. In her speech to the crowd of students and parents, Jackson says trash cans and park benches that had been set on fire at Doverdale park Wednesday evening prompted her visit to the rally.

"Where are our parents when these kids are doing this at this time of night at 10 p.m. and after," she said. "In order for us to get more, we have to learn how to relish what we have."

Jackson pointed out to the crowd that mistreating public property paid for with taxpayer money doesn't encourage the city to provide more services and amenities for the underserved communities, as it perpetuates the idea that those neighborhoods aren't worth the investment.

In order to change that, Jackson said the youth must respect not only public and private property, but respect their parents as well. The commissioner also said parents need to take more responsibility by accounting for their children's whereabouts at all times.

The "Guns Down, Minds Up" organizers said by spending more time together in the community with activities for kids, food and prizes, it's a step in the right direction away from violence in Salisbury's underserved neighborhoods.  

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