'It's got to stop somewhere': Pleas, play aimed at curbing Durham gun violence

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- About two hours after students finished their performance of "State of Urgency" Friday night, a play at Hillside High School aimed at addressing gun violence, Durham Police responded to a deadly shooting only a few miles away in the 1000 block of Drew Street.

Police received a call at 11:18, and found two men inside a vehicle; one was pronounced dead at the scene, the other taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. Shortly after, they found another victim, a man who was also hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

Through mid-September, while the number of shootings was down in Durham, deadly shootings had sharply increased.

"I think it's very important that a lot of our community sees students addressing these issues in our society and our city, instead of just hearing a lot of it from adults. I think hearing it from the kids, they're pleading for help to stop gun violence, Black-on-Black crimes, supporting Black Lives Matter," said Omari Scott, Hillside High's student body president and a performer in the play.

RELATED: Durham community launches New Vision to address violent crime

The play also featured the perspectives of family members of gun violence victims, including Z'Yon Person's grandmother. In August 2019, 9-year old Z'Yon was shot and killed in Durham during a drive-by shooting while in the car with his aunt to get snow cones.

"It's got to stop somewhere," his grandmother exclaimed.

Three mothers of gun violence victims were in the audience for Saturday afternoon's performance.

"This is the first time since my son was murdered that I stepped foot back in the school. And this is what brought me here," said Sheryl Smith, whose son Todd Antonio Douglas, a former Hillside student, was shot and killed in 2005.

"I just think it's ridiculous that people don't value lives anymore," added Alicia Campbell, whose son Ahmad was struck and killed by a stray bullet in 2016 as he attended an off-campus party while a student at North Carolina A&T University.

The pair are now advocates in trying to stop gun violence; Campbell started the Ahmad Campbell Foundation, and she noted it awarded a scholarship to a Hillside High student last year.

Smith said she believes there needs to be more community centers and youth activities to dissuade young people from criminal influences.

Scott spoke of the importance of youth sharing their voice on this topic.

"The best thing about us saying what we have to say is they're finally going to be able to hear what we want to say, how we want to say it, and no one can stop that. It's blunt, some things may make some people uncomfortable and maybe a blunt addressing tone will bring people to consciousness of what's happening in our society," said Scott.

"They too have a voice and it's important to involve them in everything that we're doing to fight crime," added Wendell Tabb, the Drama Director at Hillside High.

The final performance of "State of Urgency" will be Sunday at 3:15 p.m.. Tickets can be purchased online at this link.

If you have any information about Friday's shooting on Drew Street in Durham, call Durham Police or CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200.
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