Block party aims to show kids early on there's more to life than gun violence

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - People in one Cedar Rapids neighborhood started something they say will break the wheel when it comes to violence, a block party.

It's put together by PAVE, Parents Against Violence Everywhere. The group said targeting the area's youngest people may be the answer. The group aims to show kids early on, there's a lot to live for and plenty to do that doesn't involve getting into trouble.

"Later on (after the playing) we'll sit them down and tell them what this is all about," said Shawn Kelly.

Redmond Park, where the event took happened, is the same place 15-year-old Aaron Richardson was shot and killed in 2015. It's also just six miles from where 18-year-olds Matrell Johnson and Royal Abram were shot and killed last Saturday.

"Lives are being lost," said Kelly. "That's the main thing. I mean, we're starting with the little youths and we're trying to reach them before they get to that point where it's too late and they're out on the streets."

Kelly said he lost a family member who was practically a son to him due to gun violence. It's why he's calling for change from the ground up.

"You have to look at what brings the violence," said Kelly. "For me: things like First Avenue. you have five or six liquor stores within half a block of each other. Why do we need that much liquor in our neighborhood? Why do we need tobacco pipes sold in our neighborhood in every store?"

To accomplish any of this, Kelly said it'll take power in numbers.

"If we start going out to say, the town hall meetings, the council meetings and start expressing what we don't want in our neighborhoods, maybe things would change," said Kelly.

PAVE plans to host an anti-violence block party every last Sunday until the end of the summer and possibly after school program once school starts.