LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Little Rock's community is doing what it can to turn around the recent spike in violence with a free event at Franklin Elementary School.
The event started around 3 p.m. Saturday. Ex-gang members, community leaders, and groups were all hands on. They gave away free car washes, free haircuts, food and more. They are all hoping to set a good example for younger generations.
“There's always been crime in every community,” said Rev. Anthony D Williams.
“This is where it’s coming from, I’m not out here in this sun for nothing,” said one former gang member pointing towards his heart. "I don't care if you're a Crip, Blood, Vise Lord , Folks or whatever. We want you here.”
This community plagued by violence, wants to turn reality around. Those who live in the area and who've experienced life in the streets, hope the gesture put on today is taken seriously.
"I'm not here as a minister, I'm here as a member of the neighborhood,” said Williams. “We don't have the real understanding of being a neighbor and what it takes to be a good neighbor.”
He’s no stranger to gang violence and thinks the community lacks unity. Others in the community want less talk and more action.
“We don't have guns. We put the guns down. Its young guys out here trying to make a name for themselves. We've been through that,” one person said.
The event also hosted a rap, singing and dancing contest, as well as games. All to bridge a widening gap.
“No matter what level you're on or who you are, you play a part in making the community good or bad,” said Williams.
Leaders in the community said there is no one answer to stopping the violence, but lack of jobs and retention may be a starting point.
“Once a person does progress into something productive for our society, they leave our community. But we need people here to show the youth a way to come up and that there's a better way than violence, drugs, and alcohol,” Williams said.
Mayor Mark Stodala was also in attendance at the event. Those who participated said they hope to see more positive activities in the community on regular basis, not just when violence strikes the city.