Pledges, rallies, now a mock funeral to prevent youth violence

A hearse arrives at Bessemer City High School during a mock funeral on Tuesday. (

Nothing seems off limits when it comes to preventing youth violence. Tuesday, a casket was taken into Bessemer City High School. It was meant to wake up students and scare them away from crime.

Students certainly responded to the mock funeral, but leaders believe parents have to be involved.

Bessemer police lead the funeral procession from Chambers Funeral Home to Bessemer City High School. Students met the hearse at the school's entrance to carry the casket into the auditorium.{}This casket was empty.

"Life is too short. People getting killed over nothing," said Joshua Steele, a Bessemer City High School senior, of youth violence.

For some, the mock funeral scene was painfully familiar.

"I{}lost my cousin to it. He was an innocent bystander," said Steele.

"My cousin was killed at Getties Boyz [Club]{}in Bessemer two years ago," said Steele's classmate, Travis Head.

Donald Shepard was behind the mock funeral.

"I{}served 15 years in prison. The last two years in prison,{}I decided{}I could use my life and my experiences to detour them and{}keep them on track from going to prison," said Shepherd.

A vigil earlier this month honored the 75 people killed in the Birmingham area in 2012. Many{}of them were{}under 20 years old. One was{}just 13.

Dewayne Thompson of the Birmingham Police Department says parents also need to get involved- even monitor texts and calls.

"I{}think the children become a little more careful of what they say, what they do, where they go because they are mindful someone is watching, someone is going to try to keep them from making bad decisions," said{}Thompson.{}

At Bessemer High School, some students are already thinking a little more about their parents and their actions.

"You{}don't want to make your parents sad. You don't want to get buried by your parents," said Steele.

There's a youth summit{}at Huffman High School Tuesday night from six until nine. It's open to parents and children from kindergarten through high school. Discussions include drugs, gangs, bullying, and life after school.

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