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Kevin Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam

Hotline

“Squash the Beef” hotline: 423-227-9628.

A group made up of inactive gang members, Christian counselors, social workers, church pastors and businessmen have formed a team focused on alleviating violence within the black community.

"We have the solution," said local Nation of Islam Leader Kevin Muhammad. "We can't beg the government to do for us what we can do for ourselves."

Muhammad announced the Conflict Resolution Initiative after a two-hour panel discussion Monday.

"No police involvement, period," Muhammad said. "We will sit down as a family and mediate the beefs in our community. We will have training for men and women ready to work in our community."

The discussion marked the first event in the Unity Group's 46th annual weeklong M.L. King celebration.

The M.L. King Jr. celebration continues at 6 p.m. today at First Baptist Church at 506 E. Eighth St., where Montague Simmons of St. Louis, Mo., the executive director of the Organization for Black Struggle, will speak.

On Monday, Muhammad distributed flyers advertising a "Squash the Beef" hotline, a number people can call to de-escalate potentially violent situations.

"Squash the beef before the grief," said Muhammad, who moderated the discussion.

Muhammad and several panel members have assisted family members of people killed by violence.

"Everybody on this panel is already in the street everyday," Muhammad said.

He encouraged members of churches and mosques to get involved.

Panel member Dwight Harrison of Breaking the Cycle suggested raising funds by working with black churches to generate income.

Other panel members included Eastdale Village Community Church Pastor Charlotte S. Williams, Ash-lee Henderson of Concerned Citizens for Justice, Richard Bennett of A Better Tomorrow, local businessmen J.T. McDaniel and Mahmood Abdullah.

One inactive gang member on the panel said he tried to talk with city officials about providing gang members with jobs to alleviate some violence, but they only wanted him to tell them the names of people who committed crimes.

Muhammad said he has also discussed possible solutions to violence with city officials, but his ideas were not implemented. Now the group plans enact solutions themselves.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

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