(KPLR) – Two young teenagers were seriously injured by gunfire Saturday night in south St. Louis. It was another example of what the community outreach group Better Family Life, Inc. calls "a culture of violence."
But Better Family Life leaders and the father of Trayvon Martin, the teenager killed by a neighborhood watchman in Florida, say it is time for men in the community to step up to counteract the violence.
"Our young men and young women need fathers in their lives. We need to continue to mold them and groom them so they can be productive citizens of the community," Tracy Martin told News 11's Betsey Bruce in an exclusive interview Saturday.
Martin made several appearances at events Friday and Saturday aimed at finding solutions to the spread of crime within the African American community and to comforting those who have lost loved ones to violence. Martin is supporting the drive to bring men back into the community and back into the lives of their children.
"I don't think there is enough religion in the homes," Martin said. He also urged families to share dinner together at home and spend time talking to each other. "That in itself brings back a lot of respect in the household," Martin explained.
Better Family Life is seeking volunteers to help resolve the issues that are producing the violence.
Martin said, “Our young African American men feel they are being targeted for no reason and now they feel, we feel there is a lack of respect for our young men." Once that occurs, Martin added,”Our young men are starting to have a lack of respect for law enforcement."
He said he fears they are on a collision course. "I think the relationship between the communities and law enforcement officials have a long way to go. There needs to be a conversation," Martin said.