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Flint, MI — April Cook-Hawkins and her husband Reverend Jeffrey Hawkins are leading a ceasefire effort in Flint after shootings this week resulted in the deaths of three teenagers and spurred Mayor Sheldon Neeley to announce earlier park closures and grants for neighborhood crime watch training.
The couple called on the community to join them in combating the city’s growing gun violence, starting with the couple’s citywide ceasefire effort which will begin Friday, August 13 at 7 p.m. and conclude at the same time on Saturday, August 14.
“We want everyone to be a partner because if you’re in Flint, or anywhere surrounding Flint, this affects you,” Reverend Hawkins said at the ceasefire’s announcement on August 11. “I’m so grateful if you haven’t experienced violence in your family,” he said, “but because it’s at your front door: you are engaged in this.”
Both Hawkins and his wife have lost family members to gun violence. Hawkins lost his two sons and Cook-Hawkins lost her brother, who was just 12 years old at the time. “But I think what really tipped it for us was being at the crime scene of the 15-year-old,” said Cook-Hawkins about why the pair decided to coordinate this citywide effort, referring to one of the teenagers killed this week in shooting incidents.
“It just really brought back so many memories, and we felt we had to act. We had to do something,” she said.
The couple’s effort involves volunteers who have signed up to speak with Flint’s young people throughout the 24-hour event.
“Everybody is frustrated,” Cook-Hawkins said. “And we can’t deal with our youth in frustration. So when we go out and start talking to them, we’re talking to them in empathy and concern and caring for them.”
Cook-Hawkins said the couple is up to around 150 people who volunteered to have these conversations with Flint’s young people at various posts across the city.
She said all volunteers will be meeting at Ballenger Park at 6 p.m. and from there, the couple will brief the team on what they’re about to do, pray over the event and the city, and then head out to postings throughout Flint.
Atop those postings, Cook-Hawkins has also coordinated with many local businesses to offer activities, prayers, and safe haven during the ceasefire. Some locations include Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, which will host an open gym, barbershops, bars, and churches.
The locations are still evolving as more people and businesses sign up to support the event, Cook-Hawkins said. She added that the goal of the ceasefire remains to meet Flint’s young people where they are after a week of gun violence and loss.
“We’re just really trying to talk to them and help them,” she said. “Ask them: what is the need? Maybe we’re missing it. How can we help you heal?”
For information on how to volunteer for the 24 hour ceasefire event or to see participating businesses, check April Cook-Hawkins’ Facebook page.