Pastor says 'spiritual warfare' in play in Youngstown's bloodshed – Youngstown Vindicator

Aug 20, 2021
Boston Walker, founder of a nonprofit called Steel Valley Project, urges hands-on mentoring for those involved in Youngstown violence. He spoke Thursday at a clergy forum at New Bethel Baptist Church on Hillman Street. Staff photo / Guy Vogrin
YOUNGSTOWN — A director of a nonprofit who had experienced violence in his past raised his hand Thursday morning to offer a suggestion for ending Youngstown’s streak of shootings and death.
Boston Walker, who founded the Steel Valley Project, was among those attending the latest “Stop the Violence” news conference in response to this week’s fatal shootings on the South Side.
Walker said he has experienced the pain of being incarcerated. He told the dozen pastors at the podium outside the New Bethel Baptist Church that simply praying for and talking to those perpetrating the latest crimes won’t be enough to stem the tide of violence.
The clergy gathered in the rear parking lot of the Hillman Street church — again asking the community’s help in light of South Side violence this week that saw a 10-year-old girl shot to death early Wednesday in her Samuel Avenue home.
Authorities said fatal shooting may be related to the discovery of a 40-year-old man dead of gunshot wounds inside a pickup truck on Palmer Avenue. The two homicides make 20 for the year so far in the city.
At 9:35 p.m. Tuesday, a 16-year-old boy drove himself to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound.
“I was once one of these kids. I have been to prison, but I have made it out and landed a successful business,” Walker said. “The young people are feeling pain and they don’t know what to do with it and they are simply picking up the tools that are given, which are guns.
“No disrespect, but the old methods are not going to work with these young people. Our children don’t understand the pain and how to use it the right way to get to the next level. Whether you become a doctor or another profession, you have to go through pain to become successful.”
Walker, who offered his help to the pastors, said the community needs to “be hands-on” with these young people.
“We have to give them something, like teach them how to use a hammer.”
He said the negative energy may be enhanced by the poor conditions of Youngstown neighborhoods, which include unkempt lawns and shrubbery, and yards filled with trash and junk.
“This can set the mood … even on a sunny day,” he said.
The Rev. Lewis Macklin, one of the dozen pastors who turned out for the morning event and chaplain with the Youngstown police, agreed with Walker that “faith without works is dead,” but continued to urge the community to hit its knees.
“All of us can do something,” Macklin said asking those who can’t physically contribute to the effort to stop the violence can take part in a 24-hour-seven-days-per-week prayer and fasting going on through Aug. 31.
“Please take a prayer assignment and stand on the wall,” he said.
The Rev. Kenneth Simon, pastor of New Bethel who spearheaded the Stop the Violence movement, noted that Youngstown is caught in the grips of a “spiritual warfare.”
In response to a question, Simon said he thinks the latest violence was caused by a combination of feuding families and gang-fueled activities related to drugs.
“Somebody said that 60 to 70 percent of these acts are retaliation efforts,” he said. “One event precipitates the other.”
Simon said developing relationships is key in reaching those acting out in violent ways.
“You can’t talk to someone unless they feel safe, there has to be a space provided where they can feel safe,” he said.
The Rev. Ted Brown of the ACTION community organizing group said it is important that those close to the acts of violence speak up.
“Those who see something must say something,” he said.
Brown displayed some yellow “hot spot” cards that can be turned in to police, which can provide vital information in solving violent crimes.
“You will remain anonymous,” he said.
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