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Youths, Parents Turn Out to 'Pump Up the Peace'

Aug. 15, 2004 – Hundreds of youths gathered on Saturday at a rally in support of non-violence as the new school year is about to begin. They were entertained by singers, rappers, poets and speakers all pressing home the price of violent actions and urging peaceful solutions to conflicts.
The "Pump Up the Peace" rally provided a forum for the young people to express their commitment to peace in diverse ways.
Not only youths but also many of their parents who attended were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with that theme.
"It was great," May Cornwall, Education Complex High School PTA president and coordinator of the rally, said. "The message really got across to the youth."
Cornwall, who also is the driving force behind Parents Against Violence, said the rally helped drum up support for that organization. (See "New Parent Group Organizing Student Rally for Peace".)
"We had at least 30 parents sign up," she said. "They recognize that its time for them to get involved."
St. Croix students and their parents need no reminding of the facts of life and death about youth violence.
The week before final exams last semester, hundreds of other students witnessed the fatal shooting of Jahmalie Henry, a 19-year-old Complex student who was gunned down while waiting at the school bus staging area. A 17-year-old Central High School student was arrested in connection with the shooting. (See "Complex Student Shot Dead; CHS Student Charged".)
In January, another St. Croix teen-ager, 18-year-old Jeffrey Bennett, was fatally stabbed outside a Christiansted nightclub that was the scene of a Central High club party. In July, Attorney General Iver Stridiron announced that he had decided not to prosecute – at least at that time – the youth charged in the case or any of the other young persons implicated in the fighting that resulted in the stabbing. (See "Stridiron: Stabbing Death of Teen Was Self-Defense".)
Parents Against Violence was created after the death of Jahmalie Henry. "I was tired of people reacting for a short period of time," Cornwall said recently. "It's time for continual, hands-on support of our schools and children."
At Saturday's rally, more than 20 youth and adult speakers delivered messages of peace to an attentive audience. Headlining the show was the St. Thomas rap group Rock City which recently found fame on the U.S. mainland with its island-inspired rap tunes. Other entertainment included reggae singers Army and Mother Nile, Music In Motion dancers, Solutions Improv and Xtaushun, the Road March winning band of the 2003-04 Crucian Christmas Festival.
Among the adults offering brief remarks were Police Commissioner Elton Lewis, Aminah Saleem of the Court Appointed Special Advocate program (CASA) and Cpl. Sheila Middleton of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE). WTJX-TV recorded the event for broadcast at a later date.
Cornwall said Parents Against Violence is planning more activities to keep the momentum up. She stressed that there is an urgent need in the community to avoid conflict and to call attention to peaceful alternatives.
"We are going to be involved in the Global Peace Games," she said. The theme of the games, being held world wide, supports the goals of the United Nations, which proclaimed children the central focus of the International Decade for the Culture of Peace and Nonviolence 2000-10. The local games will be held on Sept. 18 at St. Croix Renaissance Park.
In October the group will hold a community forum on violence prevention and a memorial march to remember youths who have fallen victim to violence.
Cornwall also said that on Sunday, churches on all three islands offered prayers for the coming school year. "A lot of churches came together and prayed for the safety of our children as they entered another school year," she said.
Anyone interested in getting involved in Parents Against Violence or learning more about the group is asked to call Cornwall at 773-0083.

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