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Southeast Raleigh residents answer pastors’ call to action to address youth violence

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Southeast Raleigh residents answer pastors’ call to action to address youth violence

Dec 04, 2023 | 1:44 pm ET
By Greg Childress
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Southeast Raleigh residents answer pastors’ call to action to address youth violence
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Southeast Raleigh residents prepare to march from Word of God Fellowship to Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School during a 'call to action' on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. (Photo: Greg Childress)

On a windy, overcast day with rain threatening, residents of Southeast Raleigh gathered Sunday at Word of God Fellowship to answer local faith leaders’ “call to action” in response to last week’s deadly school stabbing in Wake County.

More than 200 residents, clergy, elected officials, students and educators came together to pray and to lean on one another as they struggled to make sense of the tragic death of 15-year-old Delvin Ferrell. An unidentified 14-year-old is facing murder charges in connection with the stabbing. Another student was hospitalized after being injured in the school fight.

Both students attended Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School, which is a short walk from Word of God along Rock Quarry Road.

‘It doesn’t matter where you come from, what denomination you are, what church you belong to,” said Word of God Pastor Mitch Summerfield. “It doesn’t matter. We’re all coming together to save our community.”

Marcus Bass stands with Wake Schools Superintendent Robert Taylor, Raleigh Police Chief Stella Patterson and members of Raleigh's faith community
Marcus Bass (center) stands with Wake Schools Superintendent Robert Taylor and Raleigh Police Chief Stella Patterson (right) and members of Raleigh’s faith community. (Photo: Greg Childress)

Marcus Bass, deputy director of North Carolina Black Alliance, one of the event organizers, said students at Southeast Raleigh must know that the “community of faith leaders are with them.”    

“If you don’t start the solution [to youth violence] in prayer, we will be here [many more times],” Bass said. “We know for a fact that this is just the beginning.”

The organizers of Sunday’s event hope it will lead to action to curb youth violence and garner additional support to ensure students’ social and emotional wellbeing.

Mentors are needed to help guide youth and resources are needed to emotionally nourish youth who were struggling long before the pandemic exacerbated the anxiety, depression and sense of hopelessness that too many young people are experiencing, event participants said in interviews with NC Newsline.

Raleigh Police Chief Stella Patterson
Raleigh Police Chief Stella Patterson (Photo: Greg Childress)

Raleigh Police Chief Stella Patterson said the causes of youth violence are multifaceted.

“If we could just point to one thing, that would be easy, but there are so many factors that are going on right now,” Patterson said. “If we think about one, our youth were not socializing for two years and during that time they were out and about and doing so many things and there was a lack of control and now you bring them back into a structured environment and they’re struggling to deal with that.”

 Youth are exhibiting a lot of anger, Patterson added.

“As adults, we just don’t know why,” Patterson said. “There’s just so many things going on in their lives.”

Patterson said the act of violence at Southeast Raleigh is a reminder that adults must honor their responsibilities to children.

“It’s an opportunity for us to be able to provide mentorships,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for parents to take a reflective look at how we’re parenting and listen to the concerns of our children and take time out to talk to them to see what they’re dealing with.”

Pastor Frank T. White Sr., who leads Antioch Bible Fellowship in Raleigh, said there is an unprecedented level of frustration among youth. He said faith leaders must step up to meet their needs.

“Even before the COVID pandemic there were issues as it relates to how we can meet the needs of our young people in church, and in our homes and in our schools” White said. “The frustration can be tempered with programs, mentorships and giving them meaningful opportunities to understand their value and worth.”

A photo of Wake County Superintendent Robert Taylor. He is a Black man wearing glasses, a blue suit jacket, white dress shirt and a blue patterned tie. He has an American flag on his lapel. He is smiling.
Wake County Superintendent Robert Taylor (Photo: WCPSS)

Wake County Public School System Superintendent Robert Taylor also spoke about the pandemic’s impact on children in an interview with NC Newsline.

“What we recognize is the pandemic has revealed one of the weaknesses that we have as a society and that is people need access to mental health care,” Taylor said. “They needed it before the pandemic and the pandemic has exacerbated that.”

Taylor said government agencies are putting resources in place to so children can have access to mental health professionals and programs. He said they must continue to do so to enable children and families to get the help they need.

The stabbing death at Southeast Raleigh has raised questions about safety in Wake County schools and whether school officials should consider adopting new security measures, including metal detectors, to keep weapons out of schools and students safe.

Taylor said weapon detection devices must accompany behavioral changes to be effective.

“The one thing that we have to do is to not only use those resources but use our biggest resources which is human behavior,” Taylor said. “It’s about what we do to keep kids safe. Any kind of device that use is not effective unless it is coupled with changes in human behavior.”

After rallying outside of Word of God, rally participants marched to the short distance to the high school where they joined hands while several ministers prayed for students across North Carolina and the families whose children were involved in the stabbing death. After the vigil, the Raleigh Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance hosted a “time of healing” for high school students and their parents at nearby Macedonia New Life Church.

That event was not open to media.

“We appreciate having the media spread the word about what has happened, but this is such a raw, organic moment that we don’t want any community member to feel inhibited by having their comments shared publicly,” Bass said last week.

The News & Observer reported that the mother of the 14-year-old student charged with murder says she warned a school official Monday that her son might be attacked.

Cherelle McLaughlin said the fight stemmed from an earlier dispute between her older daughter and a female student at the school. The dispute led to several students coming to her house a week ago and assaulting McLaughlin and her daughter, she told the newspaper.