A group of Greenville youths hope to move the conversation in Greenville forward following national outrage in the wake of police shootings of unarmed blacks.
They hope to move beyond the violent acts of protest that followed the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. And they want to take another step following die-in protests held in Greenville and on the Clemson University campus in the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to charge an officer in the death of Eric Garner in New York City.
The next step, they said, is to advocate for peace. To pray. And then to teach conflict resolution tactics to today’s underprivileged youth in an effort to
What better night to advocate for peace than Christmas Eve, said Asya Sheffield, president of the Greenville Youth Cross-Cultural Leadership Council and a senior at Wade Hampton High School.
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The GYCCLC has organized a night for youth to gather to sing, speak, read poetry and pray for leaders and police as well as for initiatives in Greenville to address the nature of violence, Sheffield said.
The event will be held on a night where families usually gather to show the larger concept of family, Sheffield said.
It will be held at First Christian Church of Greenville, 704 Edwards Road, and will begin at 11:55 p.m. Christmas Eve at and last for six hours. Each hour will focus on a different aspect – from violence to conflict resolution to Greenville law enforcement.
“This should be a happy, joyous time and not a protesting, anger, spiteful driven time of month,” Sheffield said.
“We believe that instead of focusing so much on everything bad that’s happening, we should all come together as one and celebrate this wonderful holiday that Christ was born.”
The group, a youth component of Beyond Differences, addresses negative youth behavior in and out of school in an effort to change a cycle of violence that plagues many Greenville area youth.
The group holds summer camps at apartment complexes in crime-ridden neighborhoods and meets with middle school students throughout the school year to counsel and tutor them.
They hope to channel the events of this past year into a way forward for Greenville youth to reduce school suspensions and fights in and out of school, and to get the middle school students to think about their future, Sheffield said.
“We want people to express themselves,” said Rev. Paul Guy, executive director of Beyond Differences. “We think that we can change the whole atmosphere in Greenville if we get enough youth here to say ‘I’m going to sacrifice six hours.’”