An anti-violence youth group wants residents – young and old – to come out this summer to promote peace and positivity in Austin.
For the past four Wednesdays, Jehovah Jireh #1 outreach ministry has hosted community block events at several Austin street corners with more to come this summer.
The ministry was founded by Austin native and former gang member George “Jodi” Bady Jr. in 2012. The organization has more than 100 volunteers, including former gang members, according to Bady.
The group’s “stop the violence” rallies began June 3 and will take place every Wednesday evening from 6 to 7 p.m. through the end of July. The next rally will be July 1 at Madison and Central.
“We engage the crowd to get everybody out there,” Bady said. “We feed them hot dogs, popcorn, and we mingle through the crowd and talk to them. I have a team that we pray with them and just let everybody know that we’re out here for the community.”
The ministry also plans to host a movie night on Fridays this summer, with a networking event before the show starts. And while the ministry’s focus is on the youth, their events are open to everyone, Bady said.
He started the nonprofit organization to help at-risk teens avoid that same troubled path he once took.
“I lost my mom right out of high school, and the streets showed me love,” he said. “I was there for everybody else, but when it was time for me, I felt like wasn’t nobody there for me but the streets.”
Bady, whose in his late 40s, said his mentors growing up were gang members. There were community groups and organizations around back then, but Bady said he and other kids stayed away, afraid of crossing gang boundaries.
“You had the Austin club and Austin Town Hall and all of that, but still, if you went over there and they knew you stayed over on that side of town, you were considered a 4-Corner Hustler even if you were not, so you were going to get beat up anyway. So to us, our mentors were the guys above us.”
But Bady soon was looking for a way out.
“As the years went passed, you know, you just get tired,” said Bady, who was fighting an armed violence case that carried a 60-year sentence. “I was like in a world all by myself because you couldn’t get the help you needed to do what you needed to do.”
He left the gangs behind after 15 years and is now an ordained minister.
“What happened was I started going to church and ended up getting baptized. I was in church all my life, but it just was a point in my life when you grow up, you kind of stray away from it.
“But I went back to it. As I got into church I learned how to fast and pray, and the Lord gave me a second chance.”
He said his organization is not only focused on stopping violence but addressing what causes violence in the first place.
“Everybody’s saying it’s gun violence, but we’re way past that. What causes gun violence?” Bady said.
“You don’t hear a lot of talk about the bully awareness, because that’s where it comes from. So what do you do when you get in that situation, when your life is threatened? (Who) are the proper authorities you need to go to? How do you do this? You don’t go get a gun.
“What they don’t understand is when you pull a gun on somebody and they retaliate, it’s never gonna end. It’s never gonna end,” he said.