INDIANAPOLIS — At least two people are dead, and more than a dozen others were hurt, after a violent holiday weekend in the city.
“It’s just becoming, seems like, it’s becoming the norm,” said Rev. Malachi Walker, founder and director of Young Men, Inc. Youth Ministries.
Walker has lived in the area for all of his life and has dedicated his time to offering mentorship and programming to area youth.
“The overall goal of Young Men Incorporated certainly is empowering our young men,” he said.
Walker’s Summer Empowerment Camp, which has about 65 kids enrolled currently, is a two-month program over the summer. Through positive activities and experiences, Walker said it focuses on helping young boys and teens learn how to make smart choices in their lives.
“When it comes to our boys, just a month, two months, worth of work is not enough,” he said. “It takes a whole community.”
The city’s Office of Public Health and Safety (OPHS) said it’s also working to help reduce the violence in communities.
“What our community needs is consistency in order to build that trust,” said Director Lauren Rodriguez.
OPHS is still hosting its Safe Summer programs, which are also meant to give area youth free and safe spaces to gather through sports and other activities at various Indy Parks locations.
More staffing and peacemakers, Rodriguez said, is allowing for more boots on the ground and covering more locations throughout the county.
Rodriguez said they’re continuing to be present and vigilant in popular areas.
“We’re going to continue going out to the canal and making sure that we’re engaging with the youth and the young adults that are out there,” she said.
“One thing that we do differently, week to week, is just make sure that we’re in the hot spots,” she said, “Where we notice more gun activity is where we’re going to flood our resources.”
“We’re not there to police them in terms of telling them what to do and what not to do, but we’re there to provide extra support, when, historically, we haven’t been there,” she said.
Walker and Rodriguez want people to know that despite the violence, they’re not discouraged and the community shouldn’t be either.
“I also want to make sure that our community also feels a sense of hope,” Rodriguez said. “People are out there that care about them. Organizations are out in our communities every single day, who care about what’s happening and want to make a difference.”
“Let’s just keep on. Don’t give up,” said Walker. “I heard one preacher say, a long time ago, we are like a lumberjack. We’re going to keep chopping until it falls down.”