Pensacola native Marcella Powell says she often doesn’t recognize the city where she grew up.
“I could ride my bike outside and come in when the street lights came on,” she said. “My daughter is only 5, but I wouldn’t let my 12-year-old niece do that now. I don’t even let her walk five minutes down the road.”
As a mother, Powell said she fears losing her child to gun violence. That fear comes from the recent wave of shootings in the Pensacola area.
“I think a fresh wind needs to blow through this whole city,” she said.
Earlier this month, federal and local law enforcement created a task force at the request of Mayor Grover Robinson to combat gun violence. On a separate note, a group known as Pensacola Dream Defenders, have spoken to city officials about Tymar Crawford, who was shot and killed last month after he fought with a Pensacola police officer who was attempting to stop him, according to police.
Powell said her course of action is different. She wants to see more community members get more involved in making their neighborhoods safer, with the help of local government and law enforcement. On Thursday, she’ll be hosting a community meeting, inviting the public to raise awareness about criminal gun violence and discuss ideas on how to reduce it.
As the founder of Motivate the Youth Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides mentorship to teens, Powell says she worries about the kids she serves. Whether they’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time or be influenced by the wrong people, which is why violence prevention is part of the mentorship curriculum.
“I always tell kids, ‘One decision can affect the rest of your life,’” she said.
Last month, Powell partnered with local agencies, including Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, to host the “Guns Down, Water Works Up” event which raised awareness on gun violence and taught kids that violence is not the way to solve problems. This week’s community meeting continues that conversation.
“I want to give the public the chance to sit down with officials and see how we can help them and how they can help us,” Powell said.
Powell said she didn’t try to become an activist against gun violence. But when she turns on the news and sees that gun violence is a widespread problem in the country — more than 2,100 shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012 — she knows where her efforts need to be.
“(When I see the news), it tells me, ‘Don’t stop what you’re doing,’” Powell said. “’You have a reason to keep going. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing.’”
The community meeting will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pensacola Library, 239 N. Spring St., Pensacola.