Blytheville residents working to rid communities of gang violence

Director of Healing in the Hood, Sandy “Bebe” Gillespie (Source:
Director of Healing in the Hood, Sandy “Bebe” Gillespie (Source:



BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Blytheville residents are continuing their efforts to rid their communities of gang violence.


Healing in the Hood hosted a teen summit Monday at the Wallace Center at 6 p.m. to encourage teenagers to make good decisions, discuss how communities and youth can work together to make neighborhoods safer and highlight the young talent in Blytheville.   


"All kids are not bad. Some kids are just misguided and just need that big brother or big sister to come in their lives and help them," said Healing in the Hood director Bebe Gillespie.


"We're trying to let young people know that they're all extraordinary. Some just need it pulled out of them," said Blytheville city councilman Monte Hodges.


Healing in the Hood is hosting the summit for the second year in a row.   Hodges and Gillespie organized the event before the shootings that occurred in Blytheville two weeks ago.


Blytheville police responded to several reports from residents about shots fired and fights erupting in residential areas within a two-hour span Sunday evening, April 1. .   The last call to police was in the area of Cherry and Lake Street where they found a 16-year-old and two 17-year-olds with gun shot wounds.


Blytheville police believe the incidents were gang related.


"The people who actually got shot, it wasn't meant for them to be shot. They were there, but a bullet has no eye," said 18-year-old Blytheville High School student Michael Bell.


Belle said he was not at Williams Park when fights broke out. He found out about the incidents because one of his family members was a victim. "One of the people who got shot was my cousin."


Blytheville Public Schools superintendent Richard Atwill said his district also works to prevent tragic situations before they happen by starting gang education in elementary school. "We teach the children how to identify gang related activity and behaviors even from kindergarten on up."


"The Mississippi County S.W.A.T. teams, they come and practice in our schools so they're very aware of what's going on."

He said they also show BPS employees exactly where their students live. "We ride through the neighborhoods. We've had people to openly weep when they see the school bus stop at a trailer park that looks uninhabited, or stop at a hotel or stop at a corner where there's no house for two or three blocks to pick up children. We have homeless children in our district."


Bell said he feels safe at school. "You'll have like a few problems every now and then, but mostly nothing happens at school."

Superintendent Atwill encourages students to notify administrators when situations arise. "Especially from the recent shooting, we've had students come who have alerted us to things that were going to carry over into school."

Bell said of all the positive influences at school and throughout the community, he learned the most valuable lesson at home from his mom.


"You choose your crowd. Some people, they try to fit in. So, they choose the people with the ‘I don't care attitude.' I guess they feel comfortable with those people, but at the end it's not good."

"(My mom) raised me right. I know what to do, and what not to do, and who to hang with, and who not to hang with. I know how to respect people, and you give respect to get respect."


Call (870) 623-4742 for more information about Healing in the Hood.
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