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UPDATED: Group aims to stop violence in St. Louis

UPDATED: Group aims to stop violence in St. Louis

A Call to Oneness reaches out to black community, offering help, resources

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The shooting death of Shirlene Williams has been on the minds of the executive board for A Call to Oneness.

The 16-year-old was shot June 1 at a gas station near Fairgrounds Park, just hours after the organization sponsored an antiviolence march that had attracted more than 20,000 participants.

"Her death showed that A Call To Oneness is needed," said the Rev. F. James Clark, executive director of A Call to Oneness. "We're making a plea to the community to end the violence."

More than 100 members of the organization attended Williams' funeral to show support for her family and the community.

Clark, members of the organization's executive board, and representatives for other community groups hosted a press conference Thursday at Shalom Church (City of Peace) in North County to explain the organization's goals.

A Call To Oneness is an initiative that promotes cooperation, collaboration and commitment among African-American men in the St. Louis community. It was organized by religious and community leaders.

"We will have a presence in the community," said Jacque Land, a member of the executive board. "We're not coming down into the neighborhoods to take over. We want to provide support and help for people in the community. There will be a focus on education and crime prevention."

The group plans to have "street teams" that will react when there is violence, said Donald Muhammad.

"We plan to be proactive," he said. "We're going to respond to these senseless killings."

The initiative plans to work with groups such as the NAACP, 100 Black Men, the Urban League and other organizations that work within the black community.

In just a short time, the group has already connected some people to job resources, said Courtney Jones of the executive board.

A Call To Oneness is still shaping its policies, Clark said.

"We're in this for the long run," he said. "There's going to be a lot of hard work. This is a homegrown initiative. We've got certain neighborhoods to focus on."

It could take time to change attitudes.

"Some of these kids don't consider themselves gang members," Muhammad said.

A Call to Oneness also wants to reach out to the St. Louis Police Department. The organization wants to encourage residents to become involved in stopping crime.

"People know who the drug dealers are," he said. "We want residents to reclaim their neighborhoods."

Although still new, A Call to Oneness has already received inquiries from people in Detroit, Memphis and other cities about setting up similar types of organizations.

The organization does not plan on becoming involved in politics, Clark said.

"We just believe in social justice," he said.

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