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Gang violence prevention director addresses Richmond County youth, adults

Richmond County Daily Journal - 8/29/2022

Aug. 27—ROCKINGHAM — Robert David Sr., a motivational speaker and youth and gang violence prevention director, addressed about 40 individuals outside of the Courthouse steps on Thursday.

The event was sponsored by Project Focus and the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

Project Focus program manager Hazel Robinson began with six affirmations that she wanted the students to remember prior to the first day of school on Monday — I am important, Today is going to be a good day, The world needs me, Today, I choose happiness, I believe in myself, and I will treat people the way I want be treated.

"All of them are great," David, a Dobbins Heights native, said about the youth in the audience from the Leak Street Alumni. "They just need direction."

David, who now works in Danville, Virginia, began his speech by first talking to about 15 youth..

"Because if you don't make the right decision on that first day [back from school]'s hard to come back from your bad decisions," David said.

David, who switched between his "street talk" and his "professional talk" with the students and the adults, said he understands that for many youth, tensions can escalate over the summer and re-ignite at school.

"You got to believe in your self," David said. "You've got potential and you've got greatness in something bigger than where you are right now. But you got to live to see it. You can't talk about what you want to be if you're in the street next year. It's over then."

When a few students were not paying attention in the audience and laughing, David asked that they not be asked to leave, but that their reaction was a coping mechanism for when they're confronted by something that challenges them.

"We got to begin to think about what we need to do for them to be successful," David said as he segued into talking directly to the adults. "It takes a village to raise a child. The other half of that is if the village doesn't embrace a child, the child will burn it down."

David said that a relationship needed to be established between an adult and a child before any progress can be achieved.

"If we don't have a relationship with them, it is impossible," David said directly, adding that a connection needs to be made between community resources and relationships.

David said that when he arrived to Danville in 2018, there were 18 homicides, most of them under the age of 21, in a city of 40,000. Between his work with law enforcement, that number dropped to 5 the next year, with the next two years resulting in 0 gang-related homicides.

According to David, that was achieved by utilizing a comprehensive gang model created by the National Gang Center.

"There's a ton of information about why young people get involved with community violence, you can say poverty, you can say all of that, and most of it's true," David said. "But if they don't have a relationships, how will [they achieve greatness]?"

At the end of his address, David touched on a few books that he had written which he gave to volunteers of Team Focus to have available for students.

"I have a heart for this community, this city," David concluded. "As young as kindergarten, [these children] need to be told that they have greatness within them."

Pizza and drinks were served to everyone in attendance courtesy of the RCSO.

Annie Pratt, community service coordinator for Project Focus, said she's had about five students and clients of hers killed in the past eight months.

"We can save a generation if we adults believe in the village and extend a helping hand every every chance we get and every way that we possibly can," continued Hazel Robinson."Too many of our children don't think that people care about them. We got a lot of work that we need to do. We need to become unified to in order to reach our children."


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