BRADENTON — With about six police cars flashing blue lights on her street, Kesha Dawes stepped out of her doorway surrounded by her children as she watched a small procession go by.
Upon seeing the lights from her home, she immediately thought police were chasing someone one —again.
Instead it was an anti-violence march sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council. Teens and residents held signs with anti-violence messages and the club’s sponsor, Xtavia Bailey, led the march chanting, “Stop the Violence” into a bullhorn.
Asked if she thought the march would help, Dawes said, “At the moment they are doing it, yeah, there’s no violence, but tomorrow’s a different story.”
Her little girl looked up at her and asked, “What are they doing?”
“They’re protesting the violence,” she replied.
This year’s unprecedented number of homicides has caused outrage throughout the community after several teens were killed in Manatee County.
In an effort to keep teens off the streets, Bailey and other community members are starting a Teen Safe Social night that will be held from 7:30 p.m. to midnight. every Saturday at either the Boys and Girls Club or Palmetto Youth Center. The event would be for teens ages 13 to 17.
With a $3 cover, the event would offer a dance with a DJ, a movie and games, Bailey said. The first night will be held on Nov. 7 at the Boys and Girls Club, 1415 Ninth Street West, Bradenton.
“The kids don’t have anywhere to go right now,” Bailey said. “It’s not going to be a complete answer, but it’s going to be somewhere for them to go.”
Bailey is still looking for volunteers to help run the event and help with security. Volunteers will be checking teens for weapons. “It’s just what we have to do,” she said.
Dawes, who has six children, believes an event night could help. “That will be good it will be keep them off the street,” Dawes said.
Bailey hopes the Saturday nights will help get teens more involved. Speakers will be brought in to talk for no more than 10 minutes.
“This is just the beginning of what will be happening in our community,” she said.
Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.