DES MOINES, Iowa – For the first time Des Moines Public Schools are walking to stop the violence.
Harding Middle School Principal Joy Linquist said the idea for Speak Up Against Violence Walk started during summer, when Harding Middle School teachers wanted to do something about the homicides in Des Moines this year.
“We really wanted to show publicly, be a visible presence in our community to speak up. To put weapons down and to show our students that we are a visible presence in our community,” Linquist said.
In 2017, Des Moines has seen 24 homicides take place.
Marchers will carry 24 balloons to represent each homicide.
Local Activist and Hip-Hop Artist Will Keeps was approached by the school to participate in the event.
“I’ve never seen a public school in Des Moines really step up like this. To really say, ‘look we are going to help you with this movement.’ To be like, ‘yeah we want everybody to speak up. Everybody to understand that the crime that is going on in our city needs to stop.’ We need to all work together to do it,” Keeps said.
Harding Arts Integration Specialist Cassie Kendzora develops lesson plans with Keeps’ lyrics to teach students the danger of violence.
Kendzora said she brings in Keeps to teach students lessons about his music.
“It’s always great for your classroom teacher to be there, but then to have other voices come in. Particularly, ones that allow different avenues of expression through the arts, just gives kids another way to look at things. In a way to feel like they can express themselves and be a partnership between their classroom teacher and community artist. That allows them to feel more connected to the community,” Kendzora said.
Keeps said teaching children about the danger of violence is not just a lifestyle, but rather a passion of his.
“This is something that is a passion of mine. To really get kids to understand that we need to help each other when it comes down to the violence that is going on in our city. Not just the kids, but the community, the police, the government, everybody. Everybody that is involved in something like this, because it has gotten to the point to where we are in a sense saying it’s ok to hurt each other and not say nothing about it,” Keeps said.
Keeps is currently working with five different Des Moines Public Schools.
North High School Principal Ben Graeber said the timing of this event is wonderful with everything that has been happening in the Des Moines area this week.
“We’ve had a lot of disturbances in the greater Des Moines area this week with some anonymous stuff, anonymous threats that have been going on. So the timing is great, but the focus truly is on real violence that is happening in the greater Des Moines area,” Graeber said.
Graeber said talking to kids in a positive proactive way is one way to help stop the violence.
"When we talk to kids in a positive proactive way about how we can work together to stem the violence that is happening, I think that it is going to be a message that students will welcome,” Graeber said.
Keeps will headline the Speak Up Against Violence Walk. Kids Against Violence Group and the Harding Breakers will also be in attendance.
The walk starts Friday at 5:15 p.m.
People are to meet at the southwest corner of North High School. The walk will be on 6th Avenue.
Community members, local law enforcement and Des Moines Public Schools will be in attendance.