Community meeting discusses SE GR issues

A community meeting at the Baxter Community Center in southeast Grand Rapids. (Sept. 1, 2015)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There are more calls for change and a stop to the violence on Grand Rapids’ southeast side.

People gathered Tuesday evening for a town hall meeting at the Baxter Community Center. The theme was ‘community empowerment’ — a chance for people to come together and talk about various issues.

“We need a change. And if we don’t start somewhere, we’re going to end up nowhere,” said attendee Idella Williams.

Williams says that one of the things that needs to change is the recent spike in gun violence on the southeast side. At one point in August, there were four shootings in less than a week, two of which resulted in deaths. There was a march and prayer service on Saturday to encourage nonviolence.

“If we go out there and talk to them — find out what’s your problem; why are you killing — then we’ll be able to get a solution, that’s what is needed,” Williams said.

Panelists and the audience, which was made up of mostly minorities, also talked about drug abuse, broken families and racial discrimination. Specifically, the lack of diversity on Kent County juries, which Target 8 uncovered earlier this year.

But Nile Muhammad, who organized the town hall, says it’s not just about the problems, or flaws in the system. He wanted the town hall to help each person to recognize that they have the power to influence change.

“You’ve got to grab your problems by the belt buckle. You can’t just get angry every time something happens and just get frustrated and throw your hands in the air. There’s something you can do to about it, but you’re going to have to apply yourself,” Muhammad said.

“It takes me to stand up for what is right and go forth. And that’s what we’re doing tonight. This is a start, a beginning. We all come together as a unity,” Williams said.

The plan now is to create specific work groups with each one tackling different community issues.

Organizers also plan to head to Washington D.C. in October for the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.

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