RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - Riviera Beach city leaders and residents say they are tired of loved ones coming home in caskets. The emotion and the outrage that has come since a Sweet 16 party shooting resulted in the shooting death of two people and gunshot wounds to six others is exactly what city leaders are hoping to harness to stop - or at least slow - violence on city streets.
"We do have a long way to go." His Bible close at hand, Rev. Dr. Tony Drayton of St. James Missionary Baptist Church knows something has to stop the cycle of youth violence in Riviera Beach. "I get tired of hearing 'Here we go again', another killing, another shooting," he said. "We're back at the table again."
Back at the table, but this time the pastor is among those leading the charge to change. Drayton was recently named co-chair of a new social justice commission in the city.
Tuesday evening was the first in a series of town hall meetings following the September 1 shooting at the city-owned Newcomb Hall. At the center of the auditorium at Inlet Grove High School was an empty casket, a stark reminder of the life and death realities that grip the city.
The Newcomb Hall shooting was the last straw for so many.
"When these guns are used illegally and not used in an official manner, this is what happens," said Ron Leonard, President of the Black Educators Caucus of Palm Beach County. "Coffins keep coming."
City leaders say the violence is not just a Riviera Beach issue. Reverend Drayton calls it a 'human issue' that needs human attention. He is suggesting mentoring or surrogate parenting; anything to help solve a national problem that continues to take a toll here at home.
"If everyone would be concerned about their own little piece of the puzzle, when you put the pieces together, the puzzle comes together," said Drayton. "You don't have to do the whole world. Just do a little piece."
The town hall meetings and the new commission are the beginning in a long process. A number of committees with experts in education, economics and social issues will be formed all with hopes of getting to the root of the problem.
Future town hall meetings will take place in the Indian Trace community on September 20 and the South End community on October 9.