Gangs unite to bring message of peace, hope to children

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Gang members, ex-convicts come together in unity with a message for children.

AJ Jones is 14 years old and a member of the gang Blood Stone Villains.

ABC 11 caught him crying after a presentation where Jones and gang-affiliated members of the Crips, Bloods, Folks, 52hoovers and 74hoovers told students at Torchlight Academy they want to make a change and stop the violence in their community.

Although AJ did not want to explain why he was emotional, it may have been an internal struggle: AJ is committed to his gang affiliation - but also wants to keep his peers from joining.



During the presentation, Diane Powell, a community activist read a statement from the gang members.

"We the members of an organized organization hereby issue a declaration to unite together for our community and our youth."

RELATED: A STEP TOWARD PEACE? RALEIGH GANGS DECLARE TRUCE

The declaration is a personal and individual choice from each to be a better example to the children.



"I want them to live a better lifestyle than I did," Wayne Lassiter, a member of the Blood Stone Villains said. "Get them on the right direction and right path."

14-year-old student Curtis Bobbitt was impressed.

"I was like wow. Who would have thought they would be here today speaking?"



Gang members said they will try to encourage their friends to also stop the violence and keep the community safe and clean.

Students also got a chance to see a different side of another group Wednesday: Raleigh Police.

Many of the students said they have been skeptical of officers following the recent police shootings Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Philando Castile of Minnesota, and closer to home, Akiel Denkins of Raleigh. All of them were black men.

RELATED: NEW LAW MAKES POLICE CAM FOOTAGE OFF LIMITS TO PUBLIC

"It made me think am I going to be next," 12-year-old Awa Yang said. "Am I going to be the next person being shot down?"

But on Wednesday, both white and black police officers attempted to showcase their personalities by playing and joking with youngsters. It worked.

"We take their perception and turn it around," stated Senior Raleigh Police Officer, Graham Witherspoon. "What is your perception now? Oh you guys are cool. We had four or five kids say they want to be police officers. That's ground breaking."

RELATED: RPD CHIEF ATTENDS PEACE VIGIL, FIELDS TOUGH QUESTIONS

ABC 11 asked Bobbitt about his perception of Raleigh Police following his interaction with them Wednesday.

"I think of it like this --If we can't respect ourself, how can we expect someone to respect us," Bobbitt said. "I don't think all cops are bad."

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