“We just want to tell you how much we appreciate God placing you in our lives,” said Ralpheal Graves, 28. “If it wasn’t for you we don’t know where we’d be.”
The group and dozens of other people were at Carver Saturday to celebrate Stop the Violence day, an event Folks began 15 years ago. Through Folks’ influence and programs like Stop the Violence, the adults said they’ve learned to make good life decisions.
“Having mentors like Mr. Folks and programs like this really educated us to do what we were supposed to do,” Graves said.
Folks began the program after a 26-year-old father that he knew died suddenly on account of violence in the late ’90s. It wasn’t the first or last violent death that touched someone he’d encountered in the community, but he said it was the one that prompted him to initiate Stop the Violence.
During the first years of the event, young Carver Center patrons including Graves, LaAngla McMurray, 25, and Ontario Collins, 30, helped organize Stop the Violence. They each said they’ve avoided violent lifestyles and today work and try to give back to their community. Graves, McMurray and Collins were all among the group of young adults at the Carver Center Saturday.
“It’s a community and a family thing and it’s about giving back,” Graves said.
Folks served as the director at Carver Community Center when he began the event, but he has since taken the position he now holds overseeing the entire Parks and Recreation department. Frazier Burroughs took over at the Carver Community Center in 2007, but he said he didn’t discontinue Stop the Violence day because he values it.
Each year the event is a little different. Organizers said on the tenth year of the program, they placed 84 crosses in the lawn for each person who had died from violence in Anniston since the program began. In other years they’ve marched at Zinn Park and they asked young participants to pledge to live peacefully.
While the event has changed over the years, some elements of Stop the Violence day have remained the same. One of the most notable constants at the event is the testimonial portion of Stop the Violence Day.
Burroughs said the testimonials are important because they give people who have experienced violence a chance to speak out. They’re also important because of the potential they have to affect the people who listen, he said.
While organizers value Stop the Violence day in Anniston, they said they believe it is just one of the steps needed to stop violence in the city.
“This is one day. It’s not the answer to stop the problem, however, it’s important to do this,” Burroughs said.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.