Scarred by violence, Mississippi residents rally to rescue today’s youth from gun, gang culture

Published 3:20 pm Thursday, August 29, 2019

Marcellus graduated high school and spent time in college. However, he admitted, street life was something he could not shake. At 29, Marcellus was incarcerated for the first time. After doing a total of 10 years over two stints on drug convictions and a parole violation, he now spends his days working as a barber, detailing cars and hosting stop-the-violence rallies.

“In 2010, I lost my cousin by gun violence. Most of my family were in gangs. After he was killed, I ended up going back to prison,” he said. “While I was in prison, a lot of my close friends died the same way. I could see the cycle.”

Having two daughters (8 months and 20 months) also serves as motivation, Marcellus said. “I looked at the violence in our community, and I knew I did not want my kids raised in this,” he said. “It’s also my duty because I can’t just sit back and watch the same kids I’ve known since babies throw their life away.”

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How to ‘save ourselves’

It’s a glaring fact that perpetrators and victims of gun and gang violence have grown increasingly younger. And the seemingly unanswered question is “Where are they getting the guns?”

“That’s the scary part,” said Brittany, who is pursuing her doctoral degree in public policy at Mississippi State University after getting a master’s degree in political science at Brooklyn College. “Our local mayor, our council members, this isn’t an issue for them. Their kids are safe. They’re not attending funerals. They’re not addressing anything.”

Confirming that there have been several gang-related shootings in Greenwood over the last several months, Police Chief Ray Moore says he follows a standard playbook. He said the department works closely with informants to prevent potential conflicts from arising by beefing up police presence. But he acknowledges it’s hard to verify the department’s success.

Reaching out to local governance is not something Brittany Gray advocates. She implies that the answers are within. “We’re at the point now where we’re going to have to save ourselves.”

There is not exactly a manual on how to “save ourselves.” Addressing socioeconomic disparities, gun accessibility and parent accountability are some factors the community members suggest need the most attention.