DALLAS — The bullet holes are still present on the walls and windows of Dixon Grocery in South Dallas. On one side of the building, a memorial of flowers and candles has been placed, near the parking lot where 20-year-old James Browning, Jr. was shot and killed by some unidentified suspects last week
“It’s unsafe for the children in the neighborhood,” Myra Hall said as she walked her grandson from the bus stop to her home.
In the aftermath of that deadly shooting, some neighbors living near the store remain concerned for their safety. "It’s a hangout,” Hall said.
The recent murder has been a hot topic on the streets.
"I mean, how many more funerals we got to talk about?” Bishop Omar Jawar said.
The senseless act of violence is also on the minds of a group of men meeting with the non-profit Urban Specialists. "You know, it’s just senseless,” said a man named “Def," Co-Founder of OG Apparel, who grew up around Dixon Avenue.
The men meeting with this group are from different backgrounds. They represent faith leaders, former gang members, OGs, counselors, entrepreneurs, and radio personalities. They’re joining forces to demand change. "I think the younger crowd has just devalued human life,” said Big Milk, with OG Apparel.
The group is strategizing ways to tackle senseless violence head-on. “It can never get normal for stuff like that to happen,” said Corey Cleghorn of Urban Specialists.
They want to put a stop to senseless violence, before it begins to bubble across Dallas again. "My thing is change," radio personality Bay Bay explained.
Each member of the group of influencers has their ear to the streets. "The whole village concept is just lost," artist Kotton Jessie said. "Like every day. Beyond the murders.”
The men said they believe through trust, communication, and building bonds, they can use their own platforms to help spark change. Bay Bay said he believes it could be done through education, changing the environment, and providing opportunities.
The men are part of a new Urban Specialists initiative called OGU. The program is dedicated to helping change the minds and hearts of youth and young adults through mentorship and engagement, with the help of influential everyday citizens.
"I believe that the time is now for people to get involved with this," Bruse Wane of Urban Specialists said. "Don’t sit on the sidelines.”
The men say they are optimistic their mission, along with community support, can help curb senseless violence. They ultimately want neighbors like Hall and her grandson to feel safe in their own communities. "Just believe that God won’t leave us like this,” Bishop Jawar said. “We can’t end it like this.”