‘Not My Son’ program aims to stop youth violence in St. Pete

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — On the heels of a shooting in Fort Myers, St. Petersburg city leaders are doing what they can to keep guns out of the hands of youth. Officials are also working to remove gun violence from the community.

Darryl Durant says he finds himself talking about gun violence with his two daughters more these days than ever before. Durant was devastated to learn about another deadly shooting, this time involving teenagers in Fort Myers.

“It’s very disturbing because today our kids, they are our future. And for us to sit here and watch the shootings, it sends out a bad message,” Durant said.

St. Petersburg community leaders hope to share a positive message in wake of the recent shootings. The city has started an initiative call “Not My Son,” an anti-violence awareness campaign.

“We wanted to create a movement of folks who are actually taking parenting and reduction of violence seriously,” said Rev. Kenny Irby, the community intervention director with St. Petersburg Police Department.

Every Friday, “Not My Son” advocates canvass crime-ridden  neighborhoods in St. Petersburg, asking youth to take a pledge and put guns down.

“Children are saying, ‘Nobody is saying this to me. Nobody has told me that guns are not the way to resolve my conflict and I should be thinking about my future,'” Rev. Irby said.

It’s an initiative close to councilwoman Lisa Wheeler-Bowman’s heart. Her son died from gun violence seven years ago. Wheeler-Bowman spoke at a rally to launch the program.

“Until you make it personal, we’re going to keep losing them,” she said.

The next canvass will happen this Friday, July 29, at the Greater Mount Zion AME in the Campbell Park community, starting at 7 p.m.The “Not My Son” initiative will run through the end of August.

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