Sirena Cotton knows all too well the pain of violence. It was at the corner of Lexington and Pierpont in Rochester that her son Christopher Jones was shot and killed five years ago. "It's a pain that you can't describe, I mean, it's like an empty feeling in your womb," said Cotton.
Cotton's son was just 16 when he died, the same age as Sunday's victim Raven Cooper. Cotton has organized "ROC the Peace" for July 28. It's a peace festival aimed at saving lives. "Any of those shooters have been touched by violence, I'm sure," she said. "So if you've been touched by violence, how can you put that hurt and pain on another family, on another individual?"
There have been 21 homicides in Rochester this year, eight within the last two months. David Williams said Monday that he was heading down that same path before he embraced Jesus. Williams founded Men of God last fall to help others on the street turn their lives around. "A lot of us, you know, we talk about how our city needs change and our city needs this, we need to unity but it just stops there, and God placed it on my heart to just move and do it," said Williams.
He's praying for the Mayor and Police Chief, who many are looking to for answers. Williams said prayers must be accompanied by action. "Instead of you hanging on the corner or instead of you just chilling, watching TV all day or playing video games, let's play basketball, let's go bowling, or do you have a job, what are you doing throughout the day, let's help you look for jobs," he offered.
Despite her personal tragedy, Cotton remains optimistic. Her son will never see his 21st birthday, but her efforts may help another teen make it. "You have to get up, get out and do something," she said.
Separating out the four Grape Street fire victims, 16 of Rochester's other 17 homicides remain unsolved.