'Stop the Violence' forum tackles difficult topics with optimism, unity

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DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) — When you think of the Decatur Library, you imagine rows of books still waiting to be read — quietly.

But off in one of building’s meeting rooms, Michelle Walker is the opposite of quiet.

Her laugh and booming voice fill the room, but it’s the quiet nuance of the points she raises that gather the most attention.

“I want to give a space for the community to be able to speak,” Walker said. “[People should] be able to speak on the subjects we’re talking about from bullying and violence in schools to police brutality to violence against women.”

Walker has hosted Stop the Violence community forums the past five years — and she doesn’t shy away from anything.

Among the questions she poses: what do you think about the verdict rendered to the officers who shot Alton Sterling? What do you think about the violence in schools?

Those questions were used as a jumping off point for lively discussion.

“There are a lot of concerned people who [attended this event],” said Mt. Zion resident Les Aubert. “[They care] about the youth…about the police.”

“It’s also about coming out supporting your community,” Walker said. “[It’s about] coming out and saying ‘I haven’t been affected by violence but I want to be there to support someone that has.”

Making sure violence in all of its forms — and possible solutions — remain an open book.

“I really truly believe if we would just care for one another and just love, it would make a big difference,” Walker said.

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