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Gang seminar at Livingstone focused on breaking bad habits

By Noelle Edwards
nedwards@salisburypost.com
Attendance was slim at a gang prevention seminar at Livingstone College on Saturday. About 50 people filled up the spacious Varick Auditorium to hear from Larry Suber, a pastor and writer who used to be in a gang, at the college’s Better Choices 4 A Better Life seminar.
People in attendance, including Livingstone president Dr. Jimmy Jenkins, children from the Kujimani Creative Arts Praise Dance Ministry and a children’s home, and people taking a GED class at the college, made up for audience size with noise. Throughout Suber’s speech, people vocally agreed with what he had to say.
He talked about his own experiences in a gang and selling drugs in Salisbury. He eventually was sent to federal prison for that involvement.
Looking back, he said he can see the bad choices he made. But not everyone can see in the moment that a better life is available.
He said people join gangs because they see a group, an identity, a family.
“There’s more to gangs than just Bloods and Crips and wearing a bandanna a certain way,” he said.
He said community members have to work with those in gangs or at risk of joining a gang to show them what life could be like and to help them understand the consequences of their actions.
“Life is choice driven,” Suber said. “We have to let them know that outside these four walls there is a real world.”
He said bad habits are formed the same way as good habits: with practice.
It’s up to a community and each family to help young people practice good habits and see their role models doing the same.
He said his message was not just about gangs but about making wise decisions.
“I wish I would’ve been a better person then,” he said, talking about his days as a young adult. “But I got that chance now. And so do you.”
Suber spoke to children, telling them to obey their parents. He also said it’s important for children to take steps toward achieving their dreams.
Otherwise, he said, “you might as well click your heels together and see how far that gets you.”
He encouraged adults to run their households correctly, with them as the leaders and children following their example.
“Do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t work, he said.
He spoke directly to men at several points.
He said men are men only because of noble actions, not because of their gender.
“Dogs have the same anatomy,” he said. “Does that make you a man? That makes you a male.”
Later he said, “I wish there were more men who would stand up and be who we say we are ó to these children, to our wives, to our communities.”
He said fathers need to set the example ó for sons, letting them know it’s OK to cry and be tenderhearted, and for daughters, hugging them and telling them they’re beautiful.
“If you don’t, somebody else will,” he said.
He told the audience that the seminar was important because gang activity can touch anyone, even people not involved with a gang.
It’s not a reminder the people of Salisbury need. Gang prevention has been on the radar for Salisbury City Council and community groups since the 2007 death of 13-year-old Treasure Feamster, who got caught in gang crossfire leaving a party at the J.C. Price American Legion building.
Livingstone has a gang prevention program funded by a federal grant. Saturday’s seminar was part of that programming.

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