You’ve heard of San Francisco’s “Summer of Love,” celebrating its 40th anniversary this year? On Saturday, June 23, State Rep. LaShawn Ford hoped to start a “Summer of Non-Violence” on the West Side with a candlelight vigil to remember victims of street violence and hold discussions about the future of our local neighborhoods. The event, titled, “A Call for Peace: Summer of Non-Violence,” was attended by Austin activists, ministers, politicians, youth, law enforcement personnel, community groups, youth service providers, violence counselors, and families.

With the escalating number of youth killed so far this year (approximately 33) many area residents, organizers, political leaders and law enforcement agencies have been holding weekly events calling for a summer of non-violence.

Rev. Lewis Flowers said he was there because Rep. Ford had asked for his involvement, and he supported the idea 100 percent.

Local businessman (and sometime AWN columnist) Malcolm Crawford said, “I’m here to show my support for my community and anything I can do to help is what I want to do. As the father of three sons, I don’t want to see Pat Camden (police spokesman) saying, ‘Officer fearing for his life, he shot one of my boys.’ I’m trying to keep them on the straight and narrow. My wife and I both are “hands-on” parents, and we recognize some of the challenges our African-American sons will face.

Alderman Isaac Carothers (29th Ward) said, “I think it’s important that all of us come together to make a point that we want to have as safe a summer as we possibly can. It is so unfortunate that we have all this violence in the African-American community, so I come to join Rep. Ford and others to make the statement to everyone that I’m in concert with them, that we do all we can to send a message-that we need have a safe summer and stop this violence in our community.

Rep. Ford said, “The vigil tonight is simply to call upon the conscience of the community and for us all to come together and recognize that we can’t kill our own people-God’s people. Not just black people, but white people-everybody is dying.”

Does Ford plan any more vigils this summer?

“That is not in the plan,” Ford said. “I’m hoping this will really help and bring attention to this serious matter. We would prefer not to ever hold another vigil; the ideal situation is for a violence-free summer.”

Carol Johnson, a coordinator with the Cease Fire Organization, lost her daughter to violence.

“I lost my daughter, March 30, 2004,” she said. It happened on Bloomington and Monitor streets. She was in the car with two other girls who died also. They were victims of a drunk driver. The two girls died instantly and my daughter died two days later. She was 19 years old. It’s been three years, and it has been difficult, but working with Cease Fire has helped me. When I go and talk to mothers who have lost children, I can relate to them because I’ve been there. It doesn’t matter whether it was shootings, stabbings, drunk driving-it is a lost of a child and that is something as a mother you never think about doing, burying your own child.”