By Camm Ashford
Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod on Thursday hosted a “Call to Action” seminar so students could provide input on what their solutions would be in response to the city’s recent mass shootings.
The open forum, aimed at Chattanooga’s middle and high school students and their parents, took place at 5:30 p.m. at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 East Martin Luther King Blvd.
“Every Black Chattanoogan must have a sense of urgency regarding violence amongst our Black youth,” Councilwoman Coonrod said. “We can no longer ignore the cries and pain. We must engage every generation and demonstrate raw authenticity and passion for changing the created culture. Reach our youth where they are, and uplift them to be their best version. We all must consistently engage with communities by intentionally being present even in the off-season. We must take back each block. We must reclaim our morals and values. We can’t imagine a better future for our youth, we’ve got to fight for it.”
On June 5, three people were killed and 14 others were injured in a mass shooting outside Mary’s Bar and Grill on McCallie Ave. One of the dead and two of the wounded were struck by vehicles while fleeing the shooting.
And on May 28, six teenagers were shot and wounded, two critically, when multiple people opened fire downtown, during a confrontation between two large groups of young people.
Seeking “ideas and solutions” from the city’s youth, Councilwoman Coonrod posed the question, “Have you had enough yet?”
Rising Brainerd High School senior Maurquez Thompson answered, “If we want to get to the bottom of the problem and have a solution, we have to be at schools like Brainerd, Howard and Tyner.”
Thompson, one of two MCs at the forum, plans to one day become a federal judge.
Other ideas put on the table included stronger parental involvement; more after-school and college prep programs to keep kids busy and off the street; extended access to local recreation centers; stronger background checks on guns and lifting the age of purchase to a buyer’s mid-20s; kids getting connected with a local church and students securing part-time jobs.
“Great session with great minds,” said Jaylan Sims. “Thank you so much to Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod for inviting me to co-host alongside Maurquez Thompson, as we connected with our youth to find possible strategies that can end gun violence.”
Sims is a recent Tyner Academy graduate who will attend Vanderbilt University this fall on a full-ride scholarship. He plans to major in communications and history, and minor in Arabic.
“Words cannot adequately describe the immeasurable toll that people who commit acts of violence exact on families and our community,” Councilwoman Coonrod said. “Shootings create trauma for the people directly involved, and for everyone in surrounding neighborhoods and communities. The sounds of gunfire, the possibility that kids or loved ones may be unintended victims, and the inability to feel safe can cause long-term harm. The risk of, and reality of that harm, calls us to action.”