March against gun violence in West Palm: ‘This can’t continue’

“Hope dealer.”

That was the message stamped across dozens of T-shirts during Saturday’s Peace Walk and Barbecue in West Palm Beach. It’s also what Ricky Aiken wants the young men in his neighborhood to aspire to. Now that school’s out for the summer, teens are at a greater risk for falling victim to, and participating in gun violence.

“We want our young men — instead of the only role models in their communities being the guys standing on the street corners — we want them to be hope dealers,” said Aiken, founder of Inner City Innovators. “We want them to see men who grew up under the same conditions they’re growing up in, but decided to stay and make a difference.”

In front of a crowd of about 100 at the Coleman Park Community Center, Aiken talked about the feelings of disenfranchisement experienced by young people in the neighborhood and how children are impacted by violence in the community.

“Have you ever stopped to think about the little ones?” he asked. “The little boys and girls who have got to go to Roosevelt Elementary School and Middle School, who don’t have anything to do with what’s going on, but are traumatized by the fact that every time they walk home, they’ve got to hear gunshots?”

The “little ones” were out in force during the Peace Walk. They scurried through the crowd, chanting along with phrases like “we want peace in our streets” and “free and alive by 25.”

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