In 2013, the Rev. Willis Polk of Lexington’s Imani Baptist Church organized a series of prayer walks against shootings and stabbings that culminated in a larger anti-violence rally.
Now Polk wants to begin another grass-roots movement called Safe Summer Lexington aimed at reducing the likelihood of violence.
Safe Summer Lexington is a coalition working to “keep all our youth safe to return to school in the fall,” he said. “Let’s be more visible and vocal and active.”
One initiative is to show young people how they might “save a friend” if they become aware of potential violence, Polk said.
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“We want young people … to learn to report, know how to report” potential violence and incidents of violence “because it’s a way of saving a friend’s life,” Polk said.
Polk wants to develop a core of strong leaders among young people by providing quality training in non-violence. He wants to show the community that social change is possible.
At Lexington’s July 4 parade, he hopes multiple groups will march with banners and signs promoting efforts to make the community safer.
Other Baptist churches, the NAACP and the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice are among the groups involved in the coalition.
“We’ve still got huge problems with lack of employment for teenagers and young people,” said Kerby Neill, a member of the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice.
There is not enough job training available, Neill said, or summer jobs.
Neill said the Safe Summer Lexington movement is hoping to have the help of people who have turned their lives around.
“Some of the programs that mobilize some of the grass root strengths in the community can do more than some of our mainline organizations,” Neill said.
The coalition is meeting June 13 at Bethel Church. Polk expects there will be two or three sessions this summer so people in the community can stay proactive against violence.
To learn more
What: People working to reduce violence and create a safer, more compassionate community are invited to a SAFE SUMMER LEXINGTON meeting.
When: From 6 to 7:30 pm Monday, June 13
Where: Bethel Church, 436 Fairman Road
Call: Polk at Imani Baptist Church, 859-231-1555