About 75 residents participated in Saturday’s first ever Peace Walk. Right now Rockford is reporting ten homicides. The Peace Walk started at Lewis Lemon School and ended at Fairgrounds Park. The walk was organized by Cease Fire.
"It’s an annual event that takes place in all of our areas where Cease Fire is located. It’s an effort to raise the level of awareness and bring the community together to walk for peace," says Ralph Hawthorne, the Project Director for Cease Fire Rockford.
Some of the participants in today's event were there because they had experienced violence first hand and didn't want to see it happen to others. In addition to cleaning up our streets, they are gearing their message of peace to a specific audience. They say the success of the program depends on their ability to get through to the younger generation.
"We're just having too many problems. It isn't a matter of what happened to each one of us individually you know, cause the truth to the matter is its really happening to all the kids out here," says Cease Fire Client Andrew Dunn
For some participants, the message they are spreading has a personal purpose.
"I was part of a relationship with domestic abuse for many years. Some of the kids that are with me currently, their uncle is incarcerated now in jail for violence," says Rockford Jaycees President Melissa Lewis.
"I know people who is involved with gangs and I'm trying to get them out of it. It’s pretty hard to do," says Rockford Jayteens President Joshua Lewis.
In addition to getting the word out themselves, participants are calling on adults to set a better example.
"If there's enough of us out there showing there's a cause to do better then these kids are going to have something to follow. If we don't show a lead, then they ain't gonna have nothing to lean on," Dunn says.
However, those kids are still experiencing crime first hand.
"I actually know a guy, I'm not saying his name, but he used to sell drugs out of his Suburban about a year ago. Right now, he's sitting up in federal prison for it," Joshua Lewis says.
Dunn adds violent acts affect more than just the victim and the perpetrator.
"We're facing the impact of it. When we end up in jail and we end up behind them bars, the only one that's really struggling is our family," Dunn says.
Cease Fire has scheduled a week's worth of events to spread their message. The majority of them will take place in Chicago. The events include neighborhood barbecues and a concert.