BAKER — Inside the same room where three teens were fatally shot two weeks ago, a handful of Baton Rouge-area high school students preached to a few dozen of their peers and parents that tighter-knit communities must be forged to prevent violence.
The students gathered Friday night inside the Baker Civic Club, along with some of their parents and other community leaders, to discuss ways to address teen violence in the wake of the March 28 shootings at a private birthday party that left three teenagers dead, another injured and a community devastated.
“All the fighting has got to stop,” Originae Brown, 16, said. “Mothers are scared. Everybody’s scared. I’m constantly praying.”
Brown, a student at Northeast High School in Pride, joined seven other students who spent their Friday night explaining that strong faith, discipline and an understanding of consequences must be instilled in young people to prevent tragedies like the one that took the lives of Diontrey Claiborne, 18; Kendal Dorsey, 15; and Marcell Franklin, 15.
“I think everybody just wants to be understood,” said Jada Delpit, 14, a McKinley High School student who believes most teen fights spawn from simple misunderstandings. This past week “so many fights” happened at her school, many of which could have been prevented if people communicated better with one another, Delpit said.
None of the students at Friday’s event attended the party two weeks ago. But several said they thought about or wanted to attend it but were held back by their parents.
“I was supposed to go to the party,” said Madelyn Armwood, a 15-year-old Scotlandville Magnet High School student.
Armwood said her mother convinced her not to go — a decision she was happy she made.
Dr. Maria Shantell Williams, a Zachary-based relationship therapist who organized the event and guided Friday night’s discussion, said she plans to put together at least one more similar event in the near future.
“As a community, we need to come together,” Williams said.
Mike “AV” Mitchell, 31, a motivational speaker, performed an a cappella rap at the event that begged young people to find a purpose in life.
Mitchell, who spoke earlier this week at McKinley and Istrouma high schools, said he never tells young people to put away the guns — he just tells them to follow God and follow their dreams.
“You have to respect yourself,” said Olga Short, treasurer of the Baker Civic Club. “And you have to have respect for others.”
Anthony Kenney Jr., 17, also a Scotlandville student, said the shooting hit him especially hard because Claiborne was his cousin. The two once spent a summer rooming together at the Upward Bound college preparatory camp at Southern University.
“All of a sudden, he’s all gone,” Kenney said.
Kenney’s father, Anthony Kenney Sr., said he hoped everyone in attendance at Friday night’s event left with a positive message.
“I’m just glad everybody’s beginning to start talking,” he said. “Something needs to be done to try to stop the violence.”
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