LORAIN — Less than a week before the International Urban Peace, Justice and Empowerment Summit in Cleveland, activists and the families of victims came together Saturday to push for an end to the violence that plagues the streets.
Standing in front of the community garden planted on Pearl Avenue in honor of Moises Velez, who was gunned down just up a street in front of Southerners Place on July 20, 2011, they talked about their loss and what can be done to prevent future violence.
“I’m always going to be grieving,” Ruth Kelly, Velez’s mother, said. “I’m always going to be missing my boy.”
Velez was shot once in the head outside of the bar when Angel Guerra and Richard Alvarado went looking for another man with whom they were upset. Guerra is serving a prison sentence of life without parole while Alvarado received a 15-year prison term in exchange for testifying against Guerra.
The family of Damis Crawford, killed in an August 2010 drive-by shooting, hasn’t had the closure that Velez’s family saw during the trial of Guerra and Alvarado. Crawford’s slaying remains unsolved, although police don’t believe the father of three was the target of the shooting outside the East 30th Street home of his younger brother.
Cynthia Crawford, Damis’ Crawford’s mother, said she moved to Lorain from Los Angeles so her family would be able to grow up without the fear of drugs and gangs and her son still died, even though he wasn’t involved in those things.
She said it’s hard to get the message out to youths because they don’t understand the damage the violence inflicts on people they don’t know.
“Until it affects them, they don’t care,” she said.
Crawford also said that it’s important to focus on convincing individuals to change their lifestyles and maybe then others will follow. Even changing the path of one person out of 100 can make a difference, she said.
“If we can change one, that’s one who can be touched; there’s others that can be touched,” she said.
Imam Paul Hasan, director of Lorain’s Interfaith Ministries, urged those who care about the future of their communities to come to the summit from May 30 through June 2 at Cleveland State University.
He said it’s more than just an anti-gang summit, but one that will focus on finding solutions.
“The summit is not a gang summit,” Hasan said. “It’s a peace summit.”
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147