On a very hot Saturday morning this past June, out in the parking lot of High Point University’s Community Center, I witnessed an inspiring effort to stop the senseless gun violence in our community.

My friend, Greg Commander and his Commander Peace Academy organized a “Call to Peace” Rally which brought together over 300 residents of the neighborhoods most affected by the shootings. There was music, food, free t-shirts, happy families, Susan Ormond from the High Point Rockers Baseball Team, Jim Summey from High Point CAV, several local political candidates and most important of all, regular folks who love their neighborhoods and are fed up with the violence. 

The irony of the event was not lost upon me, for the man who made it all happen was a former gang leader/drug dealer, a multiple felon and my dear friend of the last 11 years. It took someone like Greg who had spent 18 years in federal prison and seen too many of his friends die to finally rally his neighbors to address the senseless violence. His efforts are similar to those seen throughout our history when evil had to be confronted. He is calling upon the moral courage of good neighbors, families, local business people, grandparents and single moms who were courageously stepping up at this beautiful Rally for Peace to say ENOUGH! NO MORE VIOLENCE!

Greg will tell you he has made every mistake a man can make in this life; but what I love and admire about him is his willingness to step up, admit his transgressions and dedicate his time, resources and energy into making up for the damage he caused.

Greg is unique. He has lived the gang lifestyle, gone to prison and come out a better men. Most of his past associates are either still incarcerated or dead. As he likes to say; “there is no retirement plan for gangsters.” 

We need men like Greg mentoring and teaching our young people in our schools and neighborhoods.  We also need fully funded after-school tutoring programs, like LEAP and D-Up and summer camps to keep our young people constructively busy. We need initiatives like Say Yes Guilford to insure every child in our community is reading by 3rd grade and confident they can reach their full potential by working hard and staying out of trouble. Most of all, we need a bold, unified front in those impacted neighborhoods and support from the community at large to stand up against those who would perpetrate violence in our city.

For too many years the tail has been wagging the dog in these neighborhoods. Ken Shultz, our Police Chief, and his officers, are absolutely committed to quelling the violence. He has told me numerous times the numbers of those who are causing the violence are relatively small, yet their behavior has created fear and havoc for hundreds of innocent people. It is time for the good people in these neighborhoods to take a stand and start actively cooperating with our police to identify those responsible and hold them accountable for their crimes.

As Edmund Burke wrote over 275 years ago, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to stand by and do nothing.” It’s time to act and kudos to Greg Commander for leading the way. It’s now up to all of us to do the right thing, to resolutely face down this evil and let peace like a river flow through the community we all love.