Local youth came together to fight violence across the city with the second annual Peace Walk on the Aug. 11, sponsored by We LIVE.
We LIVE was created to promote awareness of youth violence throughout the city. The number of homicides in Indianapolis has increased for four years in a row, and it’s looking like 2018 will continue that trend. According to data released by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, last year’s death toll at the end of July was 90; this year’s death toll at the end of July is 91.
Warren Central High School student Brandon Warren created to We LIVE to fight against youth violence. Warren founded the organization in 2017 after he lost his friend and football teammate, Dijon Anderson. Seeing Anderson die made Warren notice youth violence across the nation. We LIVE stands for Linked To Intercept Violence Everywhere. Warren said the walk is about raising awareness and showing that whether or not you are the shooter or the person being shot, both outcomes are tragic. Warren also said the reason youth violence is important to young people is because often violence perpetrated by young people targets other youth.
“We want to persuade more teens to get involved and spread the word to other teens that they may be going down the wrong path and show them that there are other options,” Warren said.
The Peace Walk went from George Washington Park to the Marion County Juvenile Center. Warren Central math teacher and We LIVE sponsor Audrey Bush said the ending destination of the Peace Walk is significant.
“We want to help all young people or adults who may choose to shoot to know that there are better options out there,” Bush said. “We are also showing support to people who have lost someone and say that we’re supporting you and we’re doing what we can to help you.”
The killings of Warren Central students were very personal for Bush because Anderson was a student in her class when he was murdered. Bush said although more Warren Central students have been murdered, We LIVE will continue to raise awareness against youth violence.
“I had to go back to school and explain to my students why there was an empty desk, so it’s very personal for me,” Bush said. “Unfortunately, although we did the Peace Walk and other events, we still had several Warren students die this past year, but we are continuing to do what we can to try and get the word out.”
The Peace Walk had people of all ages in attendance spread awareness of youth violence with members of the community recognizing the differences in experiences from when they were high school.
“People look at these teenagers and say that they don’t know that they’re doing but these teenagers have been exposed to things that people my age and older didn’t see in high school, and I think it’s important for people to see that they have gathered and organized themselves,” participant Elizabeth Simpson said.
Another participant said the importance of activism is to pull lawmakers in the right direction.
“I think we have a problem in Indianapolis due do gun violence, and teens having their hands on guns is a problem and awareness needs to be raised in the community, and we need activists to push lawmakers to make the right decisions,” Autumn Carter said.
The walk concluded with a prayer at the Marion County Juvenile Center with speeches by Mayor Joe Hogsett, a representative from the office of André Carson and students affected by violence.
We LIVE plans to expand to more cities, continue the annual Peace Walk and add other related events throughout the year.
Contact staff writer Mariah Lee at 317-762-7853. Follow her on Twitter @mariahlee1994.