- The Washington Times - Monday, September 5, 2005

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) — Like all too many residents in neighborhoods across the nation, Jacqueline McDonald is fed up with thug culture, street violence and the speedy deaths both promote.

But unlike others, she’s doing something about it.

On Sept. 25, Miss McDonald and other concerned mothers will host the 7 City Truce, offering gang members a chance to turn over their bandannas and anything they have that symbolizes their affiliation to the subculture.

Using church programs already in place, the group will direct gang members to programs to help them finish school and obtain steady jobs. Reformed gang members, who understand how difficult it can be to walk away from the lifestyle, will share their stories about how they succeeded in starting afresh — ideally, inspiring youngsters on the streets to turn their lives around.

“We know it’ll be hard for them to come forward,” Miss McDonald said. “But if we can get just one, that one could get another, and it would be all worth it.”

The realities of street life are all too familiar for Miss McDonald. She’s put two sons in the ground and attended the funeral of another youth claimed by the violence.

Desperate to stop the cycle, she founded Mothers Against Crime in 1992.

“Children young and old, black and white, red and brown, all deserve a chance at life,” Miss McDonald said. “None of them deserves to die, and it’s our job to do all we can to keep them safe.”

Her peaceful army has since waged war on the streets with the most powerful weapon Miss McDonald could muster: a mother’s love and willingness to be there.

Now the group is taking things a step further. Those attending the upcoming event will find gang-neutral green T-shirts and new shoes — less about fashion and more about getting a new start — as well as someone to listen to them.

“These young men and women are acting up because some need is not being met,” said Margie Mitchell, a woman who heard about Miss McDonald in the late 1990s and immediately got involved with Mothers Against Crime. “They are crying out, and we have to answer.”

Whether Miss McDonald’s efforts will work remains to be seen.

If it’s done in a way that engages young people, such grass-roots efforts are effective, said Robert L. Woodson Sr., founder and president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.

But the strongest testimony to Miss McDonald’s methods comes from those she already has touched.

Derrick Flood, one of many men Miss McDonald has helped, has absolute faith in her efforts.

“Though I’m sure that Jackie has not enjoyed the hand that was given her in this life,” Mr. Flood said, “we can see that she … is playing her hand and thinking about others in the process.”

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