Crime survivors speak at anti-crime walk

Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Gospel recording artist Michael A.V. Mitchell, right, performs with the Sunrise Brass Band, behind Mitchell, at the Community Awareness Project on Saturday in observance of the National Crime Victims' Rights Week. The event was held outside of House of Refuge Ministries.
Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Gospel recording artist Michael A.V. Mitchell, right, performs with the Sunrise Brass Band, behind Mitchell, at the Community Awareness Project on Saturday in observance of the National Crime Victims' Rights Week. The event was held outside of House of Refuge Ministries.

About 50 people marched through a south Baton Rouge neighborhood near Highland Road while taking part in an anti-crime walk Saturday to raise awareness about crime victims and their rights.

Right before the march started, though, the crowd made its way under the tent for an anti-crime rally where several crime victims spoke about what they experienced after they were attacked.

Trent Miller, a 16-year-old sophomore at the Dunham School, said he was one of two teenagers shot at the Mall of Louisiana in January 2012.

Miller said he initially had trouble forgiving his shooter. However, he said, he worked with his dad to handle his emotions and find mercy.

“I’ve come to the realization that it’s not my position to hate or have anger toward a person who caused that to me,” Miller said. “It honestly just gave me a stronger testimony to come share with y’all today.”

Sheletta Matthews, 41, delivered an emotional narrative about how she was molested by two close relatives for nine years starting when she was just 5 years old.

Matthews said that by age 14, she was a prostitute and battling major self-esteem issues. She said she had her first child by the age of 17 and became pregnant with two other children after being raped twice.

Matthews said she told her story Saturday to help other victims. She said she is set to release a book titled, “I’ve Been Pimped.”

“Tell your neighbor, ‘I am a survivor,’ ” she said to the crowd. “I am not a victim. I’m a survivor and I am an overcomer, to come back to share the testimony.”

The walk was part of the Community Awareness Project, a victim support event organized by the Family and Community Together Project, or F.A.C.T. Project, and the Center of Empowerment for Families and Youth.

The event was part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. It was hosted at House of Refuge Ministries on Highland Road near Louise Street.

Trina Pullum, the Center of Empowerment’s board director, said organizers hosted a similar peace walk in 2012.

LaTonia Dunbar, founder of the F.A.C.T. Project, said the event lets crime victims know they have a support system ready to help them.

“When you go through something, you think you’re the only one,” Dunbar said.

People in the crowd gathered in front of House of Refuge Ministries to walk as a group down Highland Road.

Led by a police escort and the Sunrise Brass Band, the throng marched down Highland and turned on Terrace Avenue. They chanted “No more crime! … No more crime!” as they made their way down Terrance and Thomas H. Delpit Drive before returning down Louise Street.

Along the way, residents stepped out of their houses to get a glimpse at the demonstrators. Some of them even joined the march.

Dunbar said she was excited by the size of the crowd.

“This is literally a dream come true,” she said.

Before and after the march, the participants joined together in a lot next to House of Refuge Ministries for some food and fun on the bright, windy day.

Sprinkle the Hip Hop Clown danced with children as members of the Sunrise Brass Band played. Children ran around playing with one another. Some people sat out and embraced the sunny weather, while others stayed under a giant tent to avoid the sun’s glare.

Several organizations dedicated to helping crime victims and the less fortunate set up shop to let victims know about the services they offer.

Shante Foster, who works for one of those organizations, Career Innovations of America, brought her 4-year-old son, James, to the event.

Foster said she wanted her young son to be encouraged by uplifting events happening in the community.

“This is a positive event,” she said. “I want him to be exposed to the positive information as well.”