OKLAHOMA CITY – Hundreds of people flocked to Edwards Park at I-35 and Grand in Oklahoma City Sunday afternoon for a Silence the Violence rally.
The rally was sponsored by the Divine Wisdom Worship Center’s T.A.S.K. (Teaching and Saving Kids) outreach ministry.
Pastor Theodis Manning, a former gang member, started the ministry back in 2007 after a rash of local killings.
“I bury more young people than I do old people,” said Pastor Manning.
The organization reaches out to gang members to show them there’s another way of life.
“We offer the opportunity and the ones that want to change, they come forward. And of course, we have relationships with the ones that don’t,” said Manning.
Francisco Garcia is one of those who benefited from the ministry.
“He really changed my life for the better,” said Garcia. “I was one of the persons who started one of the biggest gangs in Oklahoma.”
Since getting involved with T.A.S.K., he’s turned his life around, has a job, got married and has kids.
“I just want to give back you know because I influenced a lot of people in the negative way and now I’m trying to reverse that and influence kids to do the positive things,” said Garcia.
Denise Shaw is another T.A.S.K. member who spent 6 years in federal prison.
“I went to prison when I was 19 years old for selling drugs, selling crack,” said Shaw.
She now tells her story to other young people at risk of making those same decisions.
“I like to tell them my story and basically pretty much speak to them one on one and just let them know there’s something different out here for you. You don’t have to go that way,” said Shaw.
Shaw is now a college graduate and a published author, with the poems she started writing to replace the fighting.
Pastor Manning says the rally used to be an annual event, but they hadn’t held it in 2 years.
He says this is not in response to anything going on nationally because they specifically focus on the violence problem in the metro area.