Cameron Community Ministries, the Healthi Kids Coalition and the Lyell/Otis Neighborhood Association will partner Thursday on their 7th Annual Peace Walk in the Lyell/Otis neighborhood.
The children of Cameron Community Ministries’ after-school program will march May 30 at 4:30 for “peace and their right to play in a safe neighborhood.” The kids will lead their friends, community members and family in their daily route along Cameron Street, Otis Street and Lyell Avenue.
Participants will wear T-shirts with a Frederick Douglass quote that reads, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Following the march, children ages five through 12 will share their thoughts on how violence in their neighborhoods has affected them and why it is important for them to take a stand for peace.
“Our students play a critical role in this movement because it’s their voices that get the attention of government officials in a way that adults can’t,” said Damon Butler, a youth assistant for Cameron Community Ministries. “They know that standing up for what they believe in and advocating for themselves and their needs is the best way to see change in their community.”
Children who live in the Lyell/Otis neighborhood experience a violent crime rate that is 60 percent higher than the rest of the city and 6.5 times higher than the suburban rate of violent crimes, officials said.
The walk began in 2013 following a string of shootings in the neighborhood that caused staff to bring students in from the playground during the after-school program. The children and staff decided they wanted to do something in response, so they created signs that read, “Keep us safe, let us play” and wrote poems about why peace is important to them.
“Seven years later, our commitment to providing advocacy training to the Cameron Community Ministries and supporting its cause is stronger than ever because we believe every child has the right to a safe and supportive environment to learn, grow and play,” Common Ground Health Advocacy Manager Jenn Beiderman said in a statement. Healthi Kids is an initiative of the organization. “By raising awareness and working together to improve neighborhood safety, we are addressing one of the main barriers to whole child health and creating healthy, equitable communities where children can learn and develop important skills for success.”
Cameron Community Ministries is an urban outreach community center. some 98 percent of residents in the Lyell/Otis neighborhood live in poverty; the organization’s mission is to provide hope to the community through emergency services, engagement, education and empowerment.
Healthi Kids is a grassroots community coalition that advocates for healthier kids in the city of Rochester and across the Finger Lakes region. Its agenda embraces children and families at the center of all decision making and Healthi Kids advocates policies, systems and environmental changes that nurture the physical, social, emotional and cognitive development of kids from birth to age eight.
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