Anti-violence rally scheduled for Saturday

Anti-violence rally scheduled for Saturday

October 28th, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Tonya Rooks is the president of of the College Hill Courts resident council, which is organizing a Stop the Violence rally.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

AT A GLANCE


What: Stop the Violence Rally

Where: Grove Street baseball field

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Admission: Free

More information: Call 648-0763

The College Hill Courts resident council wants Westside residents to change their self-perception as a way to battle violence in the neighborhood.

"We've got to build the community up," said new council President Tonya Rooks. "It's like having your own child. We've got to build the self-esteem up."

Rooks and other resident council members will host a Stop the Violence Rally on Saturday at the baseball field on Grove Street.

First Things First, Chattanooga CARES and Correctional Counseling and Probation Services are among 20 groups scheduled to attend.

"The goal is for the residents to acquire a heightened awareness that it is imperative to watch over our children and to equip residents to make better choices," said Janet Radden, community representative with the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

The fatal shooting of 20-year-old Cecil Timmons in June was among a half-dozen shootings in the Westside so far this year. The most recent shooting was in September, when Agustin Kagoma was shot while trying to run to his home to escape a robbery.

The community near downtown Chattanooga includes eight low-income housing complexes. The area has no single-family homes, and all of the businesses and services that once occupied the Grove Street Center are gone.

The Westside Development Corp. used money from the federal Weed and Seed grant between 1995 and 2006 to revitalize the Grove Street area, but the effort collapsed when the money ended.

Lisa Rooks, vice president of the council, said she wants the rally to unify residents for the safety of the Westside.

"These are not just my neighbors. This is my family," said Rooks, who is a cousin to the council president. "At the end of the day, we all have to have each other's back. If I'm not home, I want someone to watch out for my house."

Some residents have discussed forming a Westside neighborhood watch.

"We want to let the community know we do want a better community," Tonya Rooks said. "If we get busy, maybe we will run the devil away."

Rooks has her own story of redemption to share. January will mark the 11th year she has been clean of crack cocaine, she said.

"I pray every day that the footsteps I take are footsteps ordered by him," she said. "I prayed and asked him to take the taste out of my mouth and he did. And I promised if he did, I'd try to help someone else."