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First Steps Taken To Address Violence in Norwalk

Darrick Eason stood with other concerned residents Sunday to take a stand against gun violence, after moving those near him with tales of his own violent Norwalk youth. “It’s a hopelessness – you can’t describe it,” said Eason, 36, who says it is important to be open about the gun-toting lifestyle he once embraced.  “…It’s such a self-hate, that you turn it on someone else.”

Eason, a member of Spring Harvest Ministries , was among about 70 people gathered Sunday in City Hall for the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut 's “Stand Against Gun Violence.” The Rev. Kate Heichler led the forum, which began with local pastors and politicians speaking on the topic before letting participants separate into two groups to discuss the problem.

The mood of area youth was a common theme of discussion. “They have no job prospects, they have no education prospects, what have they got to live for?” asked Chiquita Stephenson , a community activist. “So we need to start a lot younger.”

The Rev. Todd Wilkinson, pastor of Spring Harvest Ministries, said youth need hope. “They have to learn there is an alternative,” he said. “Instead of just being selfish, a sense of hope that I don’t have to continue being in the cycle.”

Eason told members of the other circle that youth programs had been helpful, but at the end of the day he returned home to drug-infested areas and parents who had menial jobs and no hope.

Climbing out of the cycle was a long road for him, something that took 10 to 15 years. “I knew what I should be doing, there was a better way,” he said. “But being shaped into that old way, being comfortable with the old way, kind of being good at the old way, kind of kept me in that lifestyle. It’s very accessible.”

He said the forum had been helpful and was impressed that U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, state Sen. Bob Duff, Mayor Richard Moccia, and state Reps. Chris Perone and Bruce Morris had attended. “It’s a good start, definitely, all this representation, people in quote-unquote high places coming out, it shows that they really want to do something about it.”

Heichler said she plans to hold another forum within a month or two, “just strict conversation. To help what began to happen in the groups, give that more time.”

“I wanted people to come up with ideas and as I was wandering and listening, I heard more lamenting and expressing frustration,” she said. “We have to let that stuff bubble out.”

Can you think of ways to help area youth? Comment below.

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