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Norwalkers Stage Play to Unite Efforts on Violence

The hot summer is upon us, but that's not the only reason Chiquita Stephenson and a "group of community members" are presenting a hard-hitting play they hope will make an impression on area youth who might be prone to gang violence. The group is hoping to bring together all the community groups that sprang to action after the recent shootings in Norwalk.

"This is coming out of a series of meetings which have been held over a series of months," Stephenson said. "We've had many individuals participate in meetings, share their concerns, also voice their ideas and speak to what they wanted to see. And a lot of that dealt with ... we're looking for some action. And this begins the dialogue for action."

Stephenson, Mary Mann, Bobby Burgess and the Rev. David Washington have teamed with Mayor Richard Moccia in an effort to "bridge the gap" and bring community groups together. The group, which intentionally isn't taking a name, is presenting "One Hour 2 Live" at 6 p.m. Friday in the Concert Hall in City Hall. Tickets are $10.

The play focuses on the tormented last hour in the life of a gang member sentenced to death for murder, as the spirits of those he has killed visit him and show him the consequences of his actions.

"Young people make a quick decision, and as they make a quick decision they don't get how it affects themselves, their families or the families of the victims that they've assaulted," said Stephenson. "So we're hoping that they're able to see how many people they affect through making decisions like this. And we're hoping that it continues to bring forth solid dialogue amongst the individuals of Norwalk. ... We thought if we are able to bring forth that dialogue and bring forth a solution and work it through the mayor's office, then we're all on the same page and we're all working toward the same goals."

Moccia said he is aware of duplicating efforts. "Whether it's dealing with after-school programs or departments in the city over the years, we have developed silos, silos of information and good groups do good work but sometimes duplicating some of the work and not sharing the information," he said. "And this effort by Bob and Mary, Chiquita, (David) is to cross-connect those silos so the information flows."

He said bringing groups together make it more likely to get grants to address the problem. "In numbers there are strength, and it means a lot when there are applying for grants," he said.

The play is being advertised over social media sites and by email blasts. The group is hoping to attract others interested in preventing gang violence and get them all together at the same time, so a discussion can ensue. "It's an opportunity to gather folks, and collect data, and names, what have you," Washington said. "And implement a program around awareness: What's in your community? What do your children have access to besides just hanging out?"

Group members are aware of turf problems. "We have a community problem," said Burgess. "One way to make sure we coordinate is to we follow the money, so whether federal, state or city money, any group that can get money, can come under this umbrella."

The group hopes the "umbrella" group will become formal, with a president and a vice president, if not a name.

Then there's the play. "I think this play can be very dramatic," Moccia said. He said it will be worth it if just one young person who is "on the edge of going the wrong way" sees it and makes a change. "We know we're not going to change mankind as we know it with this, but I sort of look it as we're trying to deal with one young person at a time."

Do you plan to attend the play? Are you concerned about violence in Norwalk?

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