‘Bullet-free Weekend’ celebrated in Parkrose

See how this community organization made a public stand in the Parkrose neighborhood, confronting shootings in outer East Portland …

Standing along NE Sandy Boulevard, young people hold signs, inviting those passing by to attend this “Bullet-free Weekend” in the Parkrose neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

In his press conferences, Portland’s Commissioner of Police, Mayor Ted Wheeler, has referred to “community organizations” with which the City of Portland has partnered to reduce “gun violence”.

However, it’s been difficult to learn who those organizations are, what they do, and their efficacy.

Thanks to an invitation passed along by the Historic Parkrose Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative district, we attended an event by such an organization on March 5, in the parking lot of Katie’s Back Yard at 11307 NE Sandy Boulevard.

Telling about his organization, Love is Stronger, here’s founder Lionel Irving, who organized the event.

“We’re glad you came to see us here, during our ‘Bullet-free Weekend’,” welcomed the organizer, and also the founder of Love Is Stronger Inc., Lionel Irving.

“It’s true, I identify as a ‘gang veteran’, so I know, first-hand, about gang life,” Irving told East Portland News.

Asked what encouraged him to exit gang life, Irving responded without hesitation, “I went to prison; and, I’m blessed to be one of the few people that did not get ‘over-prosecuted’,” he explained. “In the past, I was involved in a litany of crimes that some people never come home from. I got a second chance.

“I’m doing this work because I don’t want to see guys go through the struggles that I went through in jail, to learn my lessons,” Irving continued. “I don’t want nobody to go to prison. We need to identify what [affected people] need to know, and since I’ve been there, I know what it takes to encourage them not to do the bad things.”

Event guest Amos Lee Jones (center) spends a few minutes with Portland Police Bureau recruiters Officer Patrick Johnson and Officer Curtis Brown.

At the “Bullet-Free Weekend”, several community service groups set up canopies under which to meet with those who came; and free food was served.

“We’re doing this to bring like-minded people together to stand again gun violence,” explained Irving.

“What we’re doing here is about unity and community; part of it is the message of community accountability,” Irving elaborated. “We’re bringing awareness to the problem of shootings; and we want to be controlling the narrative. Even though we hear a lot about the people getting shot, we’re here ‘doing the work on the ground floor’ with people who are standing up against gun violence.”

What is the antidote for gun violence? “The thing is to be giving love,” remarked Irving. “What we really need, outside of giving love, is encouraging people to hold their family members accountable for their actions: Like calling them, and asking them to come home, and don’t hurt anybody.

“A lot of these kids have guns now, because they’re scared,” Irving observed. “Telling a youth not to have a gun [doesn’t deter] a kid who just wants to make it home. And, if they do have a gun, giving this young person information about ‘being on the defense’ and not to ‘be on the offense’.

Several community organizations gather in support of this “Bullet-free Weekend”.

“Don’t push your kids out on the street; the streets are not safe,” he admonished. “Especially as it’s about to be summertime; it’s going to get more dangerous!”

By way of background, Irving said he started his work after coming home from prison in 2017 with co-founders of an organization called Men Building Men. He started Love Is Stronger in 2019. “We all need to be of one accord; I want to see black energy and white energy together; I want to hear about human beings, of one accord, all working together, and not separated by where we live, or by the color of our skin.”

Find out how you can support, or learn more about Love Is Stronger Inc at their website: CLICK HERE; or at their Facbook page: CLICK HERE.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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