By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Apostle Wanda Stephen knows the pain of losing a loved one to gun violence.
Stephen, pastor of Jesus Real International Ministry, and founder of Mothers Who Want the Violence to Stop, lost her son, George Powell Jr., 15 years ago when he was only 23.
“I’ve been fighting out here ever since,” said Stephen on Wednesday at the Homer E. Hayes Soccer Complex in the 200 block of Glen Crest Drive in Fairfield where a shooting occurred Tuesday night.
“I want to tell the community you need to put the guns down and pick up the Word of God,” she said. “I am so tired of this going on. . . not just in Fairfield but Birmingham and Bessemer and I have gone all around doing vigils and funerals and my heart goes out to a lot of mothers who have lost their children due to gun violence.”
Jefferson County has seen an uptick in homicides through the first four months of the year and residents say they are tired and calling on elected officials and law enforcement to do more.
“We need to stop this madness,” Stephen said, “… we need to put some laws together so we can get this stuff to stop in every city. Something needs to be done.”
Cedric “Brother Ced” Hatcher was also at the soccer complex calling for an end to the violence. He said COVID-19 is not the only pandemic plaguing the community.
“We’re in another pandemic where Black young men are being gunned down throughout this country, not just in Birmingham but other states as well,” said Hatcher, of Saving Our Next Generation (SONG) Outreach and Ministry. “We have a problem with police killing young Black men, Black men killing young Black men and we got a virus that is killing mostly people of color. We are out here to tell people to put the guns down. Stop the violence! The only person who can change the heart is God, leave the guns alone and get God!”
On Tuesday evening, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to the soccer complex where five people were shot, and one died. The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office identified the victim as DeAngelo Dwayne Poole, 24, of Fairfield.
“We grieve with the parents, we say a prayer for the young man’s mother, his family members, his siblings, we grieve with her and so many others whose lives haves been lost in our city,” said Hatcher. “Enough is enough. Love one another . . . the violence must stop because it is going too far. Put down the guns. Let’s stop this senseless violence.”
Stephen said hearts must change and change begins at home.
“If we don’t talk to our children and get them together at home, when they come outside, they don’t know how to act,” she said. “Raise your children up at home and when they come out here, they will be productive citizens. Parents must teach them the right thing to do…you must teach your children to love one another.”
Fairfield Mayor Eddie J. Penny said officials have been spending a lot of time in the community expressing the need for young people to respect one another. “We have to continue to stress the effort to try to reduce the violence. I’ve had a conversation with the Sheriff and the police chief and others… and we’re going to make sure that we come up with a plan to try and combat violence.”
Anyone with any information about the shooting is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777.