JACKSON, Mich. — In response to increases in gun violence in Jackson, organizers of Yardables want to encourage young people to put guns down and put their fists up.
“This is an event to curb the gun violence that’s been going on. People who are out in the community beefing, we invite them to come to our event and pick the gloves up and put the guns down," said Allen Anderson, co-organizer of the Saturday event.
Anderson and his co-organizer Kendall Brown brought together vendors, music, entertainment and a boxing ring in downtown Jackson.
“We came up with the term 'yardable offense,' meaning [what you said] irritated me so I want to take you to the yard. We’re going to box it out, get over it and then back to being friends," Anderson explained.
He noted that little disagreements and petty beefs can escalate quickly, but talking issues out, even boxing them out, helps to avoid the dire consequences of gun violence.
“Why don't we try to change the narrative of our community instead of kids running to guns?" Brown said. "We can have kids running to boxing gloves to try to solve their aggression and their issues in a less violent way, you know, just take baby steps to the point where they can actually talk it out.”
But the Yardables event was much more than boxing.
“First United Methodist Church here, downtown Jackson, as well as Scrap Jitsu HQ right here at the Commercial Exchange Building, got together and we have put together some backpacks with school supplies," said Mike Belcher who owns the venue that hosted the Yardables event. "We're giving away some of those to the kids that need them here at the event."
Belcher explained that he was happy to offer his venue for the event because local gun violence has taken place close to home.
“It's absolutely ridiculous. There was a shooting up the street here a few weeks ago, just downtown a few days ago on the south side. An 18-year-old girl was shot and killed. She didn't have anything to do with what was even going on," Belcher said. "So anything we can do to kind of spread the message of you don't need to pick up a gun, you can do something a little more constructive."
In the future, Anderson and Brown said, they want to have their own gym, even create an after-school program for local kids who keep their grades up.
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