March for peace focuses on an end to violence

March for Peace participants walk down Carver Street in Myrtle Beach. / Lisa Edge

All this week, Grand Strand Connection is hosting activities aimed at curbing violence in the community. Thursday, they held a march from Myrtle Beach City Hall through the Booker T. Washington neighborhood.

Armed with signs, the group is focused on making a change in the community.

"You have to take a stand and do something. That's what we're doing is taking a stand against violence and addressing the issues and bring all the leaders together to talk about these issues," said organizer Rev. Timothy McCray.

"We need to make an imprint upon the young people minds and let them know there is another option that they can take. They don't have to go down the road of violence," added Elizabeth Bowens with the group Mothers Against Violence.

For about a mile, the group called for an end to violence, chanting "put the guns down, put the peace sign up." Though they may be small in number, organizers say their message resonates with everyone.

"It might not affect you today, but eventually it will affect you or one of your neighbors or somebody in your family," added McCray.

Elizabeth Bowens lost her son, Tony Hemingway, in a nightclub shooting in 2005. Hemingway, a Red Room employee, and three others were injured in the incident. The following year, Ardon Cato pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and one count of murder.

"If we can draw a child, a mother, a father in to let them know the pain and suffering that I'm feeling, and they can avoid it by talking to their child, and if they can't talk, we are here to help them," said Bowens.

For those who may say a march is not enough Bowens remains optimistic. "It always has to start somewhere. It's going to be effective."

The next step for this group is to reach out to schools and partner with the anti-bullying campaign.

"I would like to see prevention programs, afterschool programs addressing those issues where you identify kids that are in trouble, at-risk kids. How do we bring them together and have certain types of programs that will address these issues about violence?" said McCray.

At the end of the march, the group released balloons in remembrance of their loved ones.

Friday, there will be a roundtable discussion with members of law enforcement, the Department of Juvenile Justice and other agencies from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Sandy Grove Baptist Church.

The stop the violence week activities conclude on Saturday with a gun buy back event at Sandy Grove Baptist Church from 11 a.m to 2 p.m.