A neighborhood is taking the next step in hopes of ending the violence. Hundreds gathered at Omaha North High School's Viking Center Saturday afternoon, issuing a challenge to make a difference.
Jeaneen Williams signed her name on a banner, a community pledge for peace. "I'm going to stand for my neighborhood and take care of any child that needs help in education and love."
Williams found this passion after losing Jamelia Hesseltine to violence in September 2011. Williams says she was like a mother to Hesseltine, found murdered with her boyfriend in their apartment.
"Give your time, give your effort, make phone calls, volunteer, do something.” Williams was joined by others in an event organized by the Empowerment Network, which is challenging the city to join the pledge to stop the violence.
One way is raising funds for rehab programs to get gang members off the streets and into work. Aneem Jones, a former gang member, spoke from experience. "We need the community as a whole as far as the police, the mayor, gang members, college students, whatever, and we all need to come together and really support each other."
Family members of victims also spoke, describing firsthand the devastation of violence. “Looking into their child's face and having to tell a 3-year-old little boy that his mommy is in heaven, that is the hardest thing I've ever had to do."
It was these stories, these challenges that pushed the community to sign the pledge. "Let's get together as a community and let's have peace in Omaha. God bless everybody."
Williams believes if everyone rises up to the challenge, it can make change in the city. "I'm glad to see people finally coming together in mass through all the situations, putting themselves together to help the need. It's desperately overdue.”
Visit empowermentomaha.com for more information.