Online Originals: Vigil Against Violence kicks off new organization Youth Voices Matter


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — A new Pitt County organization gathered in front of the county courthouse on Sunday to raise awareness about youth violence. 

Shantel Hawkins started Youth Voices Matter with one goal in mind: to light the way for change. 

“I thought that this would be a wonderful way for us to collectively join for the youth,” said Hawkins. “Because if they see us make the path for them, then they have the energy to follow it.” 

In collaboration with the Pitt County NAACP, Youth Voices Matter set up in front of the Pitt County Courthouse at noon. 

“I thought about having this event due to the proliferation of violence that has been occurring here in Pitt County, Greenville and around the world,” said Hawkins. 

This was the organization’s first event since being founded a month ago. 

“There needs to be some sort of focus on what is happening, and the voice behind what is happening,” said Hawkins. “We want to stand and light the way for change so that is the purpose of the vigil today.” 

Hawkins is also a youth advisor with the Pitt County NAACP. She has a background in education and said even if a lot of people didn’t show up Sunday, one voice is still a voice. 

“A voice is vital,” said Hawkins. “So, until the youth can speak for themselves, I don’t mind speaking for them, with one behind me or a million behind me.” 

“The youngest youth present released balloons in honor of the youth who have lost their lives due to violence. It was very touching and impactful…and it is my hopes it will set a precedence for “Lighting the way for change,” said Hawkins.

Calvin Henderson, the president of the Pitt County Chapter of the NAACP, told 9OYS this was just the beginning of what is a great thing for the community. 

“It has been said that the journey of a thousand miles began with one step,” said Henderson. “We don’t want her to be discouraged because maybe there won’t be a big crowd. Be encouraged that she had taken that first step and made that effort.” 

They both say that youth violence is an alarming issue. 

“There is a very serious crisis involving the youth violence,” said Henderson. “And the main thing that she’s here today to do is to educate and inform, and maybe take that first step that always has to be taken.” 

Hawkins says she was bothered after hearing about the shooting that killed one man and injured another at the Dollar General near Stantonsburg Road last month. She said it could have been anyone’s child. 

“Whenever I heard about the shooting over near Stantonsburg Road, at the Dollar General, it bothered me. I do have sons, and it could be anybody’s son,” said Hawkins. 

Henderson adds the Pitt County chapter of NAACP will back Hawkins in her mission. 

“We want her to know that we are behind her and support her in this effort,” said Henderson. 

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