Group hopes to offer choices
By John Joyce
Published in News on February 21, 2013 1:46 PM
Employment, education, entrepreneurship.
These three factors are the linchpins to success that too many young people in Goldsboro are missing, organizers of the Stop the Funeral Initiative's Drug Dealer and Gang Member Redemption Conference said Wednesday.
The Rev. William J. Barber, along with Michael Stevens and project manager Francine Smith of the Rebuilding Broken Places Community Development Center, spoke Wednesday at a news conference outlining the agenda for the event, which is being held today, Friday and Saturday.
"We must get the violence out of our minds, the drugs out of our veins and the guns off of our streets," Barber said.
In an area where the population is less than 37,000 people, there were 19 murders in 2012, Barber noted. And in 2010, he said, the violent crime rate was 154 percent higher than the national average.
"At some point we have to talk very seriously about gun violence," Barber said. "People have the right to own guns, that's their right ... but we as a society have to have a serious conversation."
Workshops, opportunity fairs and special presentations will take place at the Greenleaf Christian Church at 2110 N. William St. A special youth session will be held at the World Faith Center Saturday at 906 Buck Swamp Road.
Other events will take place at the Rebuilding Broken Places center at 2105 N. William St.
Former drug dealers and gang members who have worked to turn their own lives around will make presentations, sharing their stories and talking about alternatives to the street life.
The conference, Stevens said, will offer education opportunities geared toward "employment and entrepreneurship, building successful businesses within the community, how to seek funding and establishing economic security and adding to the tax rolls, not taking away from it."
The Stop the Funeral Initiative is open to anyone who has something to contribute, Mrs. Smith said.
"The Department of Commerce will be here. They are the ones who help former offenders find work. The Department of Social Services will be here talking about their many resources," she said.
Also represented at the conference will be Wayne Community College. There are free programs open to the people the conference is designed to assist, Mrs. Smith said.
"Its not about who is doing what," she said. "It is about what is being done."
And that community action includes a one-stop shop for community redemption. The RBP Community Development Center offers a preschool academy, computer courses and skills training and, soon, will be working to bring a culinary arts program and restaurant management course to its facility.
The center, through the Greenleaf Christian Church, purchased an adjacent restaurant and is in the process of renovating it as part of its "2nd Chance Program."
"What 2nd Chance does is offer job training, life training, counseling by those people who've made it out, for those people who are willing to take personal responsibility for their own lives and make a change," Barber said.
Barber said it is important to remember that the young men and women the conference is designed to help have already fallen victim to the life of gangs and drugs and have now or soon will decide to pull away from that violence. He said that what truly must be done to reduce violence in the communities around the nation is to attack the problem on the front end.
"We have got to come to a place of understanding, that each child is a seed in the ground," he said, adding that a community can choose to water and feed and cultivate these seeds or, alternatively, "we can chose to sit back and let the weeds grow up around them."
John E. Barnes, chief executive officer of the RBP Community Development Center said the facility has 10 paid staff members and 10 to 15 volunteers who come in the afternoons and evenings. He said he is hopeful many more people will come out once awareness of all the CDC has to offer is increased.