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Life-long impact: Baltimore youth advocates speak up about Gun Violence

Posted at 2:06 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 18:25:36-04

BALTIMORE — Dominic Tyshaun and Kharon made the trek up Monument Street, carrying balloons to the scene where four of their friends were shot earlier this month.

"It just hurt me when I saw all of them with wrappings around their legs and stitches in their legs and stuff and I was like....mmm," said Tyshaun.

It's a painful reality for the Newton brothers and dozens of other children across Baltimore.

"Every time I step outside of my school building or my house or when I'm with Uncle T or something like that you don't know what can go off like them, they got in an accident where it wasn't even their beef. Anything can happen. Bullets don't got a name," said Dominic.

Within the last year Baltimore's youth fell victim to nearly 40 non-fatal shootings. Dominc and Kharon now add their friends, a 12-year-old boy, 14-year-old twins and a 17-year-old, to that list. Their wounds are not just physical, but mental and emotional.

"They don't even want to come outside and that's not good. Like a girl she's scared to step outside because of a gunshot," said Dominic.

"We're up against a very, very serious situation here in Baltimore City. I mean all hands on deck at this point," said Terry "Uncle T" Williams. The father of a murder victim himself, he is one of dozens of violence interrupters in Baltimore with their hands full.

"Some of these kids are going through stuff that kids are witnessing over in Afghanistan man. How do you deal with that?" he asked.

It's a question violence interrupters across Baltimore struggle to answer as youth grapple with fear and trauma.

Marcia Williams deals with it, handling daily operations at Challenge 2 Change. She gets an up-close look at the impact violence has on teens.

"They tell me that it's just they're sad, it makes them afraid, sometimes it makes some of them not want to live.”

Others feel the pressure to protect their own lives.

Alex Long, founder of Team Redemption Boxing and member of Safe Streets Baltimore, sees more and more kids carrying guns.

"Originally six years ago, in a group of 20 kids you might find four, maybe five firearms in the whole group. Today with the same number of kids, you’re liable to find 14-15 firearms out of that same group of kids because we've created a society where most people feel no justice will be served unless it's justice served by them," said Long.

Though police request information related to tracking down suspects, typically, no one talks.

"Unfortunately too many of our youth have suffered losses at the hands of gun violence as many of the perpetrators have never been arrested or detained for questioning and a lot of these kids have to see the perpetrators of these crimes pass them every single day," said Long.

That understanding also drives Uncle T to invest his time in the children in his mentoring program.

"He be talking about how to stay out of the streets and stuff like that and how to stop the killings, stop the violence and basically change this whole Baltimore," Dominic said.

It would be a massive change, with Baltimore on pace to surpass 300 murders for the seventh straight year. A change Williams says starts with a four letter word.

"One of the things that we're keying in more than anything is spending time with the youth. Again I always emphasize here at Challenge 2 Change we spell love T. I .M.E.," Williams shared.

"It is most important that they get the help they need mentally spiritually and emotionally," Marcia Williams said.

The couple offer their support to young men, giving them a physical place to catch their breath.

"Some of our kids here family members have gotten murdered and the trauma they go through and the pain and they come here and release they feel a sense of release because they get to talk about it. They cry about it and they get to just pour out on us here because it's a safe place here for them," Williams shared.

A safe space to heal, and a safe space to build a better life.