PETERSBURG, Va. — Family members who have lost loved ones to violence in Petersburg are pleading for peace in hopes it will save lives.
The fourth annual Regional Stop the Violence community festival Saturday was aimed at those families who have experienced loss.
“Real men talk it out, dumb men shoot it out,” Donald Young said. “Please don't shoot my child, my brother, my cousin, my uncle or my friend."
Young said he did not know what to do about Petersburg's gun violence, so he put pen to paper to address the problem.
“When you kill the person, not only do you kill the person, you also kill their families – the ones that loved them," Young explained.
April Browder’s son and stepsister were killed by gun violence in 2019. Their cases remain unsolved.
"I wish I didn't have to look at them on a picture," Browder said looking at a collage of photos. “It’s sad. We miss them.”
She joined dozens of other grieving families at the event.
Relatives decorated cars in honor of their loved ones and took part in a drive-by parade.
"Just show our love and support for each other," Browder explained. "To me it gives you peace of mind knowing someone else is going through the same thing you're going through.”
Attendees hope their presence will lead others to peace in the community.
Browder begged folks to “put the guns down” in hopes of sparing others the heartache she continues to endure.
“It’s going to hurt you in the long run,” Browder warned. “It’s going to hurt someone else, your kids, your family and it definitely hurts the family of the life you've taken."
Years after her family tragedies, Browder still prays for change in her city.
"I think the change will come if the police will be more out and about knocking on doors," Browder said. “You can sit and watch. And if the kids had somewhere to go. If they didn’t have to come up just going to school, going home, walking the streets.”
Young urged people in conflict to “please talk it out” because “we are all family."
“We love all of you. Don't shoot," he said.
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