IF YOU GO
* What: Stop the Violence, church homecoming
* When: Noon-4 p.m. Sept. 1
* Where: Harris-Johnson Park across from Howard High School
* For more information: Call Napoleon "Donut" Williams at 423-400-0628
Ministers and community leaders aren't just asking young people to stop fighting and unite on Labor Day weekend, they want to show youths how it's done.
So far at least 10 churches said they are participating in a Stop the Violence event on Sept. 1. Organizers say the goal is to have a fight-free old-time family reunion and church homecoming at Harris-Johnson Park, located across from Howard School.
Let youths from single-parent homes come, let gang members come, let people who need jobs come, said Kevin Adams, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church, which is sponsoring the event.
"We're going to love on them," Adams said.
His wife, vocalist Cynthia Adams, will sing. Retired Chattanooga police officer Napoleon "Donut" Williams said he'll help people find jobs.
Lurone "Coach" Jennings, executive director of the Bethlehem Center in Alton Park, said he also plans to participate.
"Anything we can do to continue to bring the community together is a good thing, to pray and show love and support for each other," he said.
Adams and Williams said they have worked with at least a dozen youths over the past year, helping them get out of gangs, reuniting them with families and finding jobs.
Kelvin Scott, Adams' assistant, said they've helped at least 20 people get charges removed from their criminal record, including two people with felony charges.
Tennessee's new expungement law, called Clean Slate, went into effect July 1, 2012, and the law allows a person to pay $350 fee and request the expungement of certain nonviolent criminal convictions such as theft, certain types of fraud and vandalism. They must have been crime-free for the past five years and paid all restitution and penalties.
Getting the charges removed helps those looking for a job, and removing some felony charges enables people to vote and get jobs, he said.
Fifty-five shootings and 12 homicides have occurred so far this year in Chattanooga. More than half of the murders in 2011 were gang-related, according to police reports. One shooting this year occurred in June at the very spot where the Sept. 1 event is scheduled.
Williams said the ministers are not discouraged and he promised there will be no shooting on Sept. 1.
"This is holy ground," Williams said.
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...