“We have to stop this today,” was the message expressed by local woman Lisa Golson, the sister of 21-year-old murder victim Christopher Rapheal Sears, at Saturday’s Peace and Unity Festival, Part 2. The free event was held at Mott-Litman Gym by the Greater Tiftarea Stop the Violence Committee.
Golson told the audience that six months before her brother was murdered, her cousin was also gunned down.
“Our youth (are) going to need us,” she said.
Her mother had to move in with her for three months after the death of Sears to cope with their loss.
“It’s a hard time. A lot of people don’t understand,” Golson said. “Death comes in all shapes and sizes. We need to stop the violence.”
She said her brother didn’t have a chance to have children. He was baptized, working on getting his GED and planned on moving out of Tifton.
“We have to stop this. This community can stop this,” Golson said. “If we stick together.”
She told the crowd to report any criminal activity to law enforcement.
“If you see stuff, tell it,” she stressed. As a mother of four young children, she added, “Try to keep the peace.”
Also, Stop the Violence Committee member and Tift County Commissioner Melissa Chevers, Tracie Turner, Board of Education Vice Chairman John Smith and Deacon Horace Gray of Mt. Zion Baptist Church spoke during the event.
Turner and Chevers said the death of someone in the community affects not only the family, but all of Tifton/Tift County. Turner mentioned that the committee is sending a message to “end crime through unity.”
Although disappointed in this year’s turnout, Chevers told those who were present to take back to their neighborhoods that “we will not tolerate violence in our community.” She also encouraged them to be more visual, as Golson had said earlier. She pointed out that local woman Faye Stewart, the mother of murder victim 31-year-old David Tyrone Barnes, was in the audience.
“My heart goes out to you Ms. Golson and Ms. Faye,” Chevers said, looking at the two women.
She then told the crowd that she will continue to do her very best at trying to help stop the violence in the community, but “I can’t do it alone.” She said Golson and Stewart have lost a loved one due to violence, “tomorrow it could be your family member.”
“We all live in this community together,” Chevers said.
Following the speakers, everyone joined hands and made a circle, committing to stopping the violence in the community.
Vendors with information on how to start a Neighborhood Watch, sports activities, face painting, entertainment and free food were available at the festival.
Travelers Rest Missionary Baptist Church will host a Stop the Violence event from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 28.
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.