Benton Harbor community rallies to fight teen gun violence
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – “Think twice, don’t take a life.” “Don’t pull that trigger. Your family needs you.” “Save our youth.”
These new, blue signs can be found all over Benton Harbor—from Empire Avenue, to Broadway and Pipestone Street—pleading for an end to gun violence in the community—and it was all started by Pastor Taurus Montgomery, the senior pastor at Harbor of hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
“We wanted to send messages throughout our community, to young people especially, so that it will hopefully deter some unnecessary action,” Pastor Montgomery said.
The pastor is no stranger to community advocacy. Just this Summer, after two members of his flock lost family to gun violence, he started a Stop the Violence tour, to travel to ten different locations throughout Benton Harbor that have been rocked by shootings.
He told me the signs were born from that tour, in an effort to spread a more positive message to the whole city.
They started placing them over the weekend, where he said they are already hitting close to home for some residents.
Pastor Montgomery said “At one of the houses, they were actually extremely grateful, ‘please put one in my yard.’ They were gathered because they were mourning the loss of a young person in their family, from gun violence that took place right across the street from them. Another house we went to, there were two young men outside, one in a wheelchair and they had been recently been shot.”
He added that they still have hundreds of signs they hope to put up throughout the city, but that’s just part of the ongoing effort to stop gun violence.
Across the street from Benton Harbor High School, the Boys and Girls Club’s Joel E. Smilow Teen Center hosted a summit on teen gun violence, with a host of speakers including Benton Harbor Police Chief Dan McGinnis and Mayor Marcus Muhammad.
It’s the first event of its kind hosted by the club.
“It’s open for the community,” said Curtis McFall, the Director of Family and Alumni Services at the Boys and Girls Club. “We’re hoping to get community people involved, just so they can take a look at the teens and see what they have going on, and see how we can help partnerships with any other organization in that space.”
Pastor Montgomery was the keynote speaker at the summit, and he hoped the meeting’s message will resonate throughout Benton Harbor, because stopping gun violence has to be a community effort.
“Ending gun violence starts with you,” said Pastor Montgomery. “This starts with each person in the community taking responsibility and saying enough is enough. ‘I am going to do my part.’ It starts with us, number one, and we have to have the courage to do the right thing.”
More on Pastor Taurus Montgomery’s efforts to stop the violence can be found on Harbor of Hope’s website.