A support group for families affected by gun violence — recently started by the mayor's office with support from Baton Rouge police — has now enlisted the help of four LSU seniors to spread a message of peace.
The program was initially called Parents on the Frontlines of Peace but the name has since been changed to Families for Peace. Organizers held the group's second meeting Monday night at the Shiloh Early Learning Academy on Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive, attracting a smaller crowd than the first meeting in July.
But organizers said part of the students' role will be to continue spreading the message using social media platforms and reaching out to families directly. Participants discussed plans to meet once a month moving forward.
Rhonda Broux lost her oldest son 13 years ago. He was 19 years old, a college student with dreams of becoming an architect — gunned down over …
East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome has said she hopes the program will allow parents grieve together while also speaking out against violence.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul told the group Monday night about his mission to reduce violence in part through outreach efforts encouraging residents to help detectives solve crimes. Paul has touted residents' support in recent months as the homicide rate has declined after a violent start to 2018 and as detectives have started clearing more cases.
"I believe that your voices are very, very powerful — more powerful than mine," he told the families. "And we need to encourage the community to continue doing what they've been doing, continue being bold."
Four LSU students have become involved with the program: Anne-Marie Fortenberry, Hannah Gale, Josh Nunez and Sarah Tadros. They're all seniors majoring in political communications and are working with the mayor's office as part of a senior capstone project.
They attended the meeting and listened as relatives of homicide victims described their experiences, often speaking through tears about a grieving process that seems to never end. The students said hearing those stories cemented their dedication to the project and gave them a firsthand look at the effects of gun violence.
"We hear about (gun violence) in Baton Rouge every day, and granted, it hasn't touched our lives personally but it does mean a lot to us that other people are going through this," Fortenberry told the group. "We want to do everything that we can to help you and be a resource and be an advocate for y'all."