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Pine Bluff leaders tackle gun violence with youth education



Pine Bluff, Arkansas – Amidst the escalating wave of gun violence, leaders in Pine Bluff have taken an oath to bring about change. Their aim? To prevent the surge of violence that’s been increasingly plaguing their city.

Pine Bluff’s New Endeavor: Curbing Gun Violence Through Education

“Last year, we started out as GRIP, Pine Bluff group violence, gang reduction initiative of Pine Bluff, and through some research and site visits, we transformed to GVI,” shared Judge Earnest Brown. His words are a testament to a revamped strategy designed to specifically target the root causes of gun violence in the city.

Judge Earnest Brown’s history with the city runs deep. Not only did he previously serve as a state representative and secretary for the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus, but he’s also currently the Circuit Judge for the Juvenile Division of Jefferson and Lincoln counties. Add to that his role as the Vice Chair of Group Violence Intervention (GVI) in Pine Bluff, and it’s evident that Brown is profoundly committed to his community.

Brown passionately speaks about the collective concerns of the community. “So many people involved, because people are concerned, they’re concerned about the future of our youth, the future of our community,” he emphasized.

Recent data provides a grim picture. Pine Bluff police have reported a disturbing trend. Last year, the city saw 21 homicides. Yet, this year, by September alone, the number had already risen to 22. Brown’s dismay is palpable: “It’s troubling, it goes through my head that they’re going up instead of going down.”

A significant portion of this alarming statistic involves the youth. As Brown points out, “For what I do working with the juvenile population, more than half of those involving young people and it’s something that our community needs to take very seriously.”

Teaming Up to Teach Nonviolence

In a bid to address this crisis, GVI has forged an alliance with the Arkansas Martin Luther King Junior Commission. Their initiative? Nonviolence youth summits.

Brown elaborates on this collaboration, calling it a “combination of two years of discussions and planning to begin that movement toward reducing gun violence in the city of Pine Bluff.”

The Arkansas MLK Commission, with its history of hosting such summits, believes the present time calls for these events more than ever. Diana Shelton, the Program Coordinator of the Commission, explains their agenda: “To teach them the king methods, the six principles of nonviolence and become change agents for their communities, their homes, their schools.”

Moreover, the Commission hopes to offer the youth a haven, as Shelton reiterates, “Because they are our tomorrow, they’re out today and time goes by so fast that by attacking it at a young age, then it gives them a foundation.”

Judge Brown encapsulates the essence of this endeavor, expressing hope for a safer future. “It’s not the court’s responsibility, it’s not law enforcement. it’s not the mayor’s. It’s all of us together, saying that we want Pine Bluff to be a safe city,” Brown concluded.

Pine Bluff’s upcoming MLK nonviolence summit, set to start on Thursday at Morehead Middle School, symbolizes a united community’s endeavor to shape a better tomorrow.

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