Friday, June 10, 2016

Panel Discussion on Reducing Violence in Birmingham to Take Place June 18 at Central Library

The Central Library will host a panel discussion addressing how to curb homicides in Birmingham on Saturday, June 18, 2016. The event will feature a talk and book signing by victims’ advocate/community activist Carolyn Johnson, author of When Your Child Is Murdered.

The panel discussion will take place from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on June 18 in the Arrington Auditorium of the Linn-Henley Research Library. Johnson will then sell autographed copies of her new book after the program between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

A Bessemer native and graduate of Miles College, Johnson is employed in Birmingham's Violence Reduction Initiative (VRI) program. Since her oldest son Rodreckus, 20, was murdered on November 22, 2003, Johnson has worked tirelessly to help make Birmingham’s streets safer.

Rodreckus left home to attend a birthday party at an acquaintance's house, and was fatally shot while parking his car after a group of boys fighting engaged in a shootout. Nearly 13 years later, Rodreckus’ murder remains unsolved.

When Your Child Is Murdered details how Johnson used her devastation and pain as a catalyst to actively fight to reduce youth violence. She is convinced that the problem of drugs, gangs, and violence can’t be simply wished away. On August 30, 2004, she founded and organized the Parents Against Violence (PAV) Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization committed to educating youth and parents about the consequences of using violence, and enforcing community awareness of unsolved homicides.

Johnson’s advocacy work was instrumental in the establishment of a cold-case unit within the Birmingham Police Department in 2005. She organized the first Survivors of Murdered Loved Ones luncheon in Birmingham to pay tribute to victims of homicide and to bring awareness to youth violence, and founded the People Supporting People to provide grief support and comfort to individuals and families victimized by violence. Johnson formed Parents in Action, a mobilized community group that educates parents and youth about the negative effects of violence, and organized the annual Save Our Youth day to encourage students to refrain from violence, stay in school, and to engage in positive activities during school summer break.

Johnson organized the Sisters Leadership Program to educate, mentor, and empower girls ages 12-18, enabling many of the girls to later achieve promising careers. She also formed the “Who Killed My Child” and the “It Ain’t Snitching If It Happens to You” billboard campaign to bring awareness to unsolved homicides in 2006, a program that has helped police settle several unsolved cases.

For her dedication and hard work, Johnson has been recognized by several organizations, including the Birmingham Citizens Advisory Board (CAB), the National Criminal Justice Department, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Birmingham Community, Police and Revitalization, City of Birmingham Office of the Mayor. She was awarded the Outstanding Leadership and Community Service by the NAACP, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Keeper of the Dream Award by Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 2006, and awarded the Alabama Black Achievers Award by the Oliver Robinson Foundation. She is a 2008 graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy.

In 2011, the Birmingham City Council and the Central Park Neighborhood Association commemorated the life of Rodreckus, placing a street marker at the corner of Avenue R and 46th Street in his memory. Johnson is featured in two powerful documentaries with UAB: Voices of Youth Violence and a recent film, Wildfire. She is the feature of the award-winning documentary Not My Son, which was created and produced by the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

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