Austin Head Start kids march against violence

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On April 9, a 14-year-old girl was struck by early-morning crossfire on Crystal Street just south of Lafollette Park. Two weeks earlier, a 17-year-old boy was shot dead and left in an alley in the middle of the afternoon near Kinzie Street and Laramie Ave.

That’s two in three weeks – and it only gets worse when summer comes.

With dozens of 3- to 5-year-olds in tow, parents and teachers at Healing Temple Church of God in Christ’s Head Start program took a public stance Thursday morning against violent acts like these.

Shouts of “No more killing!” and “Save our children!” drew honks from passing cars as a line of children spanning nearly half a block marched from the church, making their way west to Laramie Avenue, east on Chicago Avenue and back to the Healing Temple.

Over their winter coats on the chilly morning the kids wore bright yellow T-shirts they had made with their parents’ help, sporting phrases like “Don’t shoot” and “I want to grow up, live, love, laugh.” Many waved stop signs and handed out bumper stickers for the anti-violence organization CeaseFire.

“I’ve seen one T-shirt that said I want to grow up to be 44, and he’s 4,” said teacher Elona Johnson. “So they know that kids are being cut short at a young age.”

The event was the organization’s fourth in commemoration of “Week of the Young Child,” said Executive Director Elizabeth Lockhart. The annual week-long event was created by the National Association for the Education of Young Children in 1971 to draw attention to the needs of young kids.

Hear what one child had to say.

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