200 youngsters rally in Market Square to silence the violence

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Fourteen-year-old Gabrielle Stolich's contribution to the peace movement was a poem titled "A Shut Mouth Won't Get Fed."

Some of her peers spoke through banners, dance and song yesterday during a Market Square rally that invited students to decry violence with art.

"There are many ways your voice can be heard," Gabrielle, a Homewood resident, told the crowd. Residents should speak out if they witness violence, she said, but also volunteer their time to make the community a better place.

The "youth peace rally" drew more than 200 people, many of them students bused to Market Square from summer programs across the city.

"Up with art. Down with violence," said Sala Udin, president and chief executive officer of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership on the South Side.

"Art can be more than beautiful. It can be transforming ... Use your art for growth and human development," he said.

The rally was sponsored by the MGR Foundation, of Lawrenceville and Chicago, which runs an arts program through a network of community groups. Philip Koch, foundation director for Pittsburgh, said the Murals program enables students to express their feelings through art and to talk about violence with peers and adults.

Not all students who attended the rally were part of the Murals program. Some came as representatives of mentorship or youth development programs.

"I think violence is a waste of time," 15-year-old Lauren Brimage of Homestead said.

Lauren said her time with a mentor, provided through Youth Enrichment Services Inc. of East Liberty, "made me change my perception of people."

The rally occurred hours after a spate of violence in and around the city, including the fatal shooting of a 31-year-old man near a North Side intersection Monday night.

But the rally had been planned since the end of the school year, and it targeted more than homicide and gang violence, Mr. Koch said, noting "kids are getting into fights daily and bullies are in school daily."

Joe Smydo can be reached at jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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