The children of Cameron Community Ministries’ after school program recently marched in the fifth annual Peace Walk in the Lyell Otis Neighborhood for their right to play in a safe neighborhood.
Partnering with the Healthi Kids Coalition, an initiative of Common Ground Health, and the Lyell Otis Neighborhood Association, the kids hosted the annual walk to call for a safer neighborhood.
“Our kids are standing up for change in their very own community,” said Katherine Sime, CCM youth director. “By teaching our students how to speak out, Cameron Community Ministries staff hopes this event raises awareness of the need for safer spaces in this neighborhood and throughout the city.”
The walk started in 2013 after a string of shootings in the neighborhood caused staff to bring students in from the playground during their after school program. Kids and staff decided they wanted to do something in response. They made signs that read, “Keep us safe, let us play” and wrote poems about why peace is important to them. Wearing T-shirts that called for peace, the kids marched down Lyell Avenue and the annual Peace Walk was launched.
This year’s Peace Walk went from CCM down Lyell Avenue to the library and back. Marchers wore T-shirts reading “Keep my neighborhood safe, it’s my right to play” and were escorted by Rochester Police Department. After the march, children ages 5-12 years old shared their thoughts on how violence in their neighborhoods has affected them and why it is important for them to take a stand for peace.
“I’m walking in the peace walk for this community, because I want people to stop violence and love each other,” said Ysland, 11. “This is not just affecting me but everyone, because people lose their family members every other week.”
“I need a safe place to play, because shootings make me sad,” said Jadiel, 7. “One day, I will change the law to help our city.”
Studies from Healthi Kids demonstrate that crime and neighborhood perceptions of safety are key barriers to walking, biking and playing in several city neighborhoods. Research shows play is vital to the physical, social and emotional development of children.
“Every child has the right to play, but issues of neighborhood safety across the city deter parents from letting their kids play outside,” said Jenn Beideman, Healthi Kids policy and research associate. “In fact, our data demonstrates that kids in this neighborhood experience a violent crime rate that is 60 percent higher than the rest of the city, and 6.5 times higher than the suburbs. By improving neighborhood safety, we can address one of the main barriers to play and create healthy, vibrant communities.”