Natchitoches’ Martin Luther King Park was the scene of a Stop the Violence Rally sponsored by the Natchitoches Coalition on Homelessness, the Natchitoches City Council as well as a number of local ministers. The rally was organized in response to the increasing number of shootings in the city. According to Natchitoches Police Chief Nekio Collins, there have been 5 deaths in the city and 49 shooting incidents since the beginning of the year. By way of comparison, Chief Collins stated that there were 39 people killed in shootings so far this year in Shreveport.
The rally featured a DJ, local rappers and some phenomenally talented youngsters who sang for the crowd. Tristen Jefferson showed oratorical skills far beyond his years in a superbly done opening prayer. Natchitoches City Councilwoman at Large Betty Sawyer and School Board member Dorothy McGaskey served as Mistresses of Ceremonies and introduced each speaker, performer and notable visitor.
Ms. Sara Troncale from the Louisiana National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program was on hand to explain her program, designed to assist young people in danger of dropping out of school with the support and disciple they need to succeed, all in a no cost residential setting. The Youth Challenge Program has three sites in the state and has served thousand of teens for over 20 years.
There was also a balloon release to commemorate the lives lost in the community due to violence. Rev Steven Harris was joined by community leaders, each holding a balloon that was released after Rev Harris gave a prayer.
Mayor Williams and newly installed police chief Nikeo Collins each spoke to the more than 75 persons at the rally. The Hawg Riders, a local motorcycle group came out to the rally as did Natchitoches Parish School Superintendent Grant Eloi. Judge Desiree Dyess was joined by City Council members Betty Sawyer, Rosemary Washington and Chris Petite and School Board members Steven Harris and Dorothy McGaskey. The award-winning BBQ chef Daryl “Sweetie” Walker and his wife served up some of their savory fare for the crowd attending.
The rally is just the beginning of the fight to stop the violence arising in our community. It is an issue that affects all of us. The Natchitoches Parish Journal would like to commend the hard-working, community minded people who gave of their time and resources to help make our community a better place to live.
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