A Young Audience Tackles Gun Violence Issue

JoJuan Armour and Montrice Terry

Sojourner’s Truth Staff

The second of three community forums on gun violence in the city of Toledo was held at Woodward High School on Saturday, May 16, before an audience of about 75, including a number of young students.

JoJuan Armour, commissioner of Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’s Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence, led the discussion and opened the event by explaining that the city’s data on violence have led the initiative to focus on three critical areas – central Toledo including the Junction neighborhood, the Lagrange Street area in north Toledo and the Garfield-Starr neighborhood in East Toledo.

“We will create themes from the information,” said Armour. He noted, for example, that the information from south Toledo indicated that, given the paucity of adult males in homes, more mentorships are needed there. However, in north Toledo, residents have indicated that “we don’t need mentorships because we have more men at home but without jobs,” said Armour.

“We do have that piece of self-identity with neighborhoods,” added Montrice Terry of the City Park League who is working with Armour on the community forums and the initiative.

“The goal is to create something sustainable to address gun violence effectively,” noted Armour. He provided information on statistics that shows that gun violence deaths in 2020 doubled from the previous year and that the total of deaths for 2021 are on pace to exceed the 2020 total with 20 homicides so far this year.

Dawn Thomas, a prevention systems manager for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, introduced how the city is establishing a process to work on the steps for the initiative – the first step being the assessment of the situation. Then the city will attempt to build capacity as it attempts to plan, implement and continue to evaluate its progress.

She stressed that community involvement will be critical to the success of the initiative.

The students in attendance were an important part of the conversation, several discussing their personal remorse about deaths but also noting that youth in Toledo need more opportunities for social activities and more employment opportunities.

The third town hall meeting will be held at Waite High School on Saturday, May 22.