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Pine Bluff community group seeks students' perspective to help solve crime issues

United Citizens of Pine Bluff is a citizen-led organization whose primary goal is to reduce gun violence in the city.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — The community of Pine Bluff is coming together to help stop the violence.

City leaders have recently announced action to help stop what they said is a growing trend and now others are joining the effort.

Kymara Seals and Kerri Williams both said that gun violence in the city has been an issue for years. 

"We have a problem in Pine Bluff, we know we have a problem. We own that problem as citizens," Seals said. 

That problem not only affects the adults that live here but the students who are the town's future.

One of them is 10th-grade student Kahlil Husband.

"There are people that I've literally shaken hands with and said 'what's up?' to, that are just gone now," Husband said. 

Husband said he sees the violence happening all the time on social media, but as a high schooler, he feels his voice is not valued. 

"They kind of look over people in my age group," Husband said. 

For Seals and Williams, organizers of the United Citizens of Pine Bluff community group, they both said that solving the town's dire issue of gun violence involved everyone— and that includes the youth.

"They are the future of Pine Bluff, we have to be able to give them a voice," Williams said.

In order to accomplish that, they had a community town hall meeting with over 300 students in attendance.

They believe that many students attended because they created a safe space for students to express their feelings and to collaborate on ways to find solutions to the ongoing battle of gun violence.

"I had a clipboard, and I took front and back page notes and students [came] up afterwards and talked to us. And it was just amazing," Seals said.

Even though Pasha West is on her way out as a 12th-grade student, she believes if schools in the community could focus more on mental health awareness, more students would be less inclined to commit crimes.

"I feel like a lot of these criminals are usually kids who were either bullied in school, didn't have a loving family, or feel like, you know, no one cared," West said.

For her, seeing a group that does care for students so much that they continue to ask for their help is a good sign that violence in the city can be stopped. 

"Even if you ain't got a loving family at home, you can come to school, and you have people that care about you," West said. 

The organizers say Watson Chapel is just their first stop. 

Within the next two weeks, they plan to talk with other school districts in Pine Bluff to address the issues of gun violence.

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