published Monday, March 18th, 2013

Music, dance, mime rally troops in crusade against violence in Chattanooga

Chattanooga Gang Task Force coordinator Boyd Patterson, in tie-dyed shirt, was in the crowd of people watch performers during a Stop the Violence rally Sunday at the Salvation Army on 28th Street.
Chattanooga Gang Task Force coordinator Boyd Patterson, in tie-dyed shirt, was in the crowd of people watch performers during a Stop the Violence rally Sunday at the Salvation Army on 28th Street.
Photo by Connor Choate.

LaToyah Holloman says she's tired of waking up to gunshots.

Though this year is only a little more than 3 months old, Chattanooga already has had 20 shootings and six homicides.

A resident for nine years, Holloway said that if she didn't speak out against violence, no one would.

"I wanted to take a stand," she said. "My heart cries out to the community. It's got to start with us."

Holloman started a campaign in October to protest the violence that has wracked some parts of Chattanooga.

As part of her campaign, Stop the Violence, Holloman organized a community event Sunday night at the East Lake Salvation Army on 28th Street, just blocks from where a man shot a Chattanooga police officer last week.

One of the campaign's main goals is to reach the youth of the neighborhood, and more than 100 people gathered Sunday to make that a reality.

"The kids need a positive influence in the neighborhood to occupy their time instead of the streets," said Brandie McClendon, Holloman's sister. "We're trying to give them confidence and a better outlook on life."

Less than two weeks after 16-year-old Lamunta Williams was killed near the Howard School, the message is well-timed.

Holloman says she wants Chattanooga residents to "let go and let God."

"Let God work in your life. That way you won't feel the need to kill your brother," she said.

Members of Engine Company 9, East Lake's firehouse, attended the event.

Lt. Charles Thompson, with the Chattanooga Fire Department, says that in his line of work, he often sees the worst.

"Hopefully it'll make a difference in some of the young people's lives," he says.

Holloman is known in the community as the "little lady with the big punch" because of her determination to pull the community together.

"This city needs a hero," said gang task force coordinator Boyd Patterson. "LaToya Holloman is a role model for everyone that thinks that the problem is bigger than they can handle."

The event's nine performers put on a lively show of music, dancing and miming. The crowd clapped and cheered along with each performance.

One of the performers was musician Mike Kelly, known as Big Mike Mic. He wants the city to wake up to the problem.

"People are just numbed by the violence," he said.

Kelly and his brother Brian are working on a project called City Without Tears to raise awareness. The project includes a six-song album, music video and documentary.

"With knowledge comes power," he said, "and if you don't know anything you're powerless."

Holloman and Kelly want residents to know that the power for change lies in their hands.

"The solution is going to have to come from the community," Patterson said. "When community members start taking back their streets, that's the beginning of real change."

about Lindsay Burkholder...

Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.

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