NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Four years later and Anita Gonzalez still doesn't know who killed her 17-year-old son, Jermell Hayes.
Everyday is a reminder of how dangerous silence can be.
"People being silent is what allows the perpetrators to continue to do the things that they do and hurt families and friends and communities," said Anita Gonzalez.
However, the hope is that that pain ends now because young people like Ceniah Higgs know that sometimes silence is meant to be broken.
Higgs is a youth mentor who said, "you don't have to wait until you're an adult to start bringing change to where you are. You can start now."
For the second year in a row, the Catalyst CommUNITY Care and Action Team are taking a stand.
Founder Cortez Higgs said, "this is an opportunity for us to stand in solidarity and let people know that we are not for social injustice and we are not for violence of any type."
Approved by both the city of Newport News and the General Assembly, across Virginia, this week is officially Silence Empowers Violence Break the Code Awareness-to-Action week. This year's theme is to take a stand against social injustice and violence."
Councilman David Jenkins is one of the many leaders who supports the organization's mission. He told News 3, "people really do care about change. They really do want to stop the violence and they're willing to go out and demonstrate that in a very public way."
Everyday from September 13th to September 19th has a different theme and event.
Things kicked off on Sunday afternoon with a peaceful stand against justice. Participants and community members stood at three intersections on Jefferson Blvd: Oyster Point, City Center and J Clyde Morris Blvd.
"Not only are we focusing on violence prevention and taking action, but also we've included the element of social justice and social injustices too," said Higgs.
The week will end on Saturday with a 2.5 mile walk down Jefferson Avenue. Ceniah said that's the day she's looking forward to most, "don't feel small and don't feel afraid because you feel like your little actions aren't going to amount to much because all of our actions help make a big impact."
You'll also want to keep your eyes peeled while you're out and about this week because you may stumble upon a car with the tag #SilenceEmpowersViolence...Break The Code. The idea is to show just how far the message of unity and peace can be spread.
Cortez Higgs said it's also his mission to teach the youth how their actions impact the community. Gonzalez echoes that sentiment saying it could help bring her family justice.
With her son's memory in her heart, Gonzalez said she's looking forward to the camaraderie the week will bring, "just having people around that care and love you and even strangers it just brings out so much joy in my heart."
Daily participation themes include:
- 9/13 - "Take a Public Stand" Sunday
- 9/14 - "Make It Known" Monday
- 9/15 - "Talk About It" Tuesday
- 9/16 - "What Would You Do?" Wednesday
- 9/17 - "Thank Them" Thursday
- 9/18 - "Fly the Silence Empowers Violence Flag" Friday
- 9/19 - "Break the Code Walk" Saturday
Click here for registration.