DENVER (CBS4) – Rival gang members on Wednesday sat down face to face at an unusual gathering that included victims of violent crime, clergy members and community leaders.
The goal of the meetings are to start a conversation about how to stop gang violence and violence in general. It’s also a commitment to healing. This Friday a prayer walk will start at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Dalia Street as a way start it all.
Six different gang affiliations with current and former members were represented at Wednesday’s meeting.
“I love it when the community can change the narrative of what this would look like,” Pastor Jason Janz with Providence Bible Church said. “People who may not have understood each other listened to each other’s stories with respect.”
Pastors were asked by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to come up with solutions to the recent uptick in gang violence.
Tiffanie Casados was paralyzed seven years ago by a gang member in a drive-by shooting. She used to be angry but now is offering help.
“‘Why me? I’m in school, I have a future, I have a career path. Why me?,’ ” Casados said. “And then my two little brothers, it hit them very hard … and they were in the gangs, and now they’re not … I know now, ‘Why me?’ Because I have to save other people.”
W.A. Grant is a former gang affiliate who has lost numerous family members to gang violence.
“In the heat of the violence I lost a cousin a couple weeks ago that was on his way to a funeral that got killed on the way to the funeral,” Grant said.
Many at the meeting, like Grant, are now committed to their communities rather than gang colors. So even though those people may seem like an unlikely group to be in one room, they believe it’s the first step to stop violence.
“I believe a community can solve its own problems,” Janz said.
A series of summer prayer walks are planned beginning with Friday’s walk.