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Event seeks to build Hamilton unity after violence

Education, jobs are real keys to reducing violence, leaders say.

A softball tournament Saturday, starting with a prayer service, wasn’t set up in response to a recent killing in Hamilton’s Second Ward, but that violence shows the need for the event, which will be called “Pitches for Peace,” Police Chief Craig Bucheit recently wrote on social media.

“We’ve been planning this event for months, but the violence last week underscores the need,” Bucheit wrote Monday on Twitter. “We will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with a prayer service for those touched by the violence and those committed to peace.”

Two leaders from the community say softball games — featuring teams made up of city employees, local churches and staff from the Booker T. Washington Community Center and YMCA — can’t hurt. But they add it will take real talk within the community and throughout the city, plus concrete action to improve people’s lives, to make a lasting difference.

“The idea of it, and the follow-through with it, is a great idea,” said the Rev. Victor Davis, who lives in Hamilton and is pastor of a church in Chillicothe. “The violence certainly must stop. What communities fail to realize is what hits one family one day could hit another the next day, and it goes beyond the family of the victims, because both families become victims — the family of the perpetrator, as well as the family of the victim.”

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“Anytime you can come together for peaceful expression of sympathy or to address the issues of a community, it’s a plus,” Davis said.

Bob Harris, president of the South East Civic Association, said, “We need to sit people down and have conversations about death and reality. It’s not a video game. It’s real life, and once you take a life, you can’t get it back. And the other part of that, once you start taking someone’s life, you’ve got to look out for your life, and your life is ruined when it catches you.”

Harris added: “We need to talk to these young boys running around here, trying to flex their muscles.”

Recent violence, including the Aug. 29 fatal shooting of a 13-year-old Hamilton boy at an apartment complex on South Front Street, has resulted in a weekend softball tournament, an effort to build unity in the community. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

The event will be held at Foundation Field, located behind the BTW Community Center at 1140 Front St., and should last from 9 a.m. until about 2 p.m.

“We can play ball together,” Harris said. “But let’s talk about the real goals, and the real objectives.”

Miquan Damartye Hubbard has been charged with murder in the Aug. 29 shooting of 13-year-old Jaraius Gilbert Jr. in the 800 block of Front St., who died from multiple gunshots.

MORE: 13-year-old Hamilton student identified as fatal shooting victim

Davis said two steps toward reducing violence are, “open communication within families and certainly, activities and jobs for young people.”

“The more time young folks have on their hands, the more likely they can get into something other than what’s positive,” he said.

Providing lessons in schools that deal with poverty and violence — “and not just glossing over them” — also are important, Davis said. “There has to be extensive curriculum to deal with it, and people who know what they’re talking about.”

It’s also important that people within the community speak up when they know facts about crimes, Davis said.

“That’s a problem nationwide, the idea that you don’t snitch, versus the idea that what happens to one today could happen to somebody else’s family tomorrow. And the only way you stop that is people have to stand up,” he said.

Harris said he also sees education, financial literacy and community pride as being key to reducing violence.

The whole city of Hamilton should pray about the issue, Davis said.

“It takes the entire city, because whatever community is hit today, it can be another tomorrow. And this is not isolated in the Second or Fourth wards,” Davis said. “So the entire city needs to pray, and come together, and talk about social justice, equality, and the lack of jobs and intensive education.”

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