NEW ORLEANS -- A 4-year-old boy was among seven people shot in New Orleans over the weekend.
It's the city’s latest stretch of violence that's left four kids with gunshot wounds in the last two months.
Monday, many in the community stopped to think about the implications of having so many children caught in the crossfire, including those who work with the new consortium of agencies that try to give kids, formerly labeled “at-risk,” new opportunities.
At one point, a Criminal Court judge gave Darren Alridge two choices, a GED program or prison. He chose to get his GED and he did so well with the Youth Empowerment Project, they hired him to help others.
“What you see is what you do. So, you know if you have that negativity in your life then most likely you gonna pick the habit up. That's what this programs for. To stop that and to be that loving, caring parent that they look up to,” Alridge said about what leads young people to a life of violence.
“You've given up on hope if you're willing to do something like that and that makes me sad. And it makes me feel like as a community, we have failed these young people,” said Melissa Sawyer, co-founder of the Youth Empowerment Project.
Last weekend, that four-year-old boy was grazed in the head by a bullet. His 44-year-old grandmother was shot multiple times in her bedroom at a home in New Orleans East.
Police haven't released a motive, but they do say this shooting, and the shooting of a 7-year-old and a woman on Airline Drive last week, were not random acts of violence.
Another consortium member, Ron McClain, heads up Family Services of Greater New Orleans.
“It's that they don't know how to be parents and they also don't know that they don't know how to be parents,” McClain said.
He said he believes the city needs stronger families. It's not a surprising revelation, but one that the coalition of youth support agencies says needs more attention.
“Part of our work is to let them know, this is not the norm. This is not normal,” McClain said.
“If you're brave enough to pick up a gun and shoot anybody, you just don't care. Period,” Alridge said.
Many involved in the fight said Monday they feel it's a loss of hope generations in the making. One they're trying, child by child, to turn around with increased opportunity.
If you are interested in getting help through parenting classes or other resources call Family Services of Greater New Orleans at (504) 822-0800.