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There's been a lot of talk about the Promise Zone and good things coming to the east side. The talk is about hope.
KENS 5 journalist Sue Calberg lives on San Antonio's east side.
SAN ANTONIO -- There's been a lot of talk about the Promise Zone and good things coming to the east side. The talk is about hope.
Their motto is where we're headed. It's "Stay. Grow. Graduate. Stay." I know my friends and neighbors are working on that.
It's a promise that can't come to soon.
"That's all we hear," one resident told us. "The other night, like maybe two weeks ago: 'Bam, bam, bam, ba-bam, bam, bam.'"
Call it the soundtrack of our lives in east S.A., where things don't just go bump in the night.
Like here on Fargo Avenue, where a man was shot one time, but police picked up more than 50 spent shell casings one recent evening.
Things weren't much better in the Sunrise neighborhood.
"I came out the front door and heard about 10 to 12 shots," said one neighbor, an Army veteran. "I've been deployed three or four times, and so it brings back the PTSD a lot."
He said he didn't expect a firefight on his own street.
Another day, at another shooting, the police lights flash and a police chopper flies overhead as crime tape surrounds a shooting scene.
Shell casings and blood stains are on the pavement as medics tend to the wounded. Police carrying long guns and shields stop to shake hands with young boys at a bus stop.
Sometimes, it's the children who fall in this live fire zone. Kids like Kiana.
Balloons dance in the breeze, but this is no party. It's the way those who loved her continue to say goodbye to Kiana James, a 16-year-old killed two years ago in a drive-by attack.
"A boy shot her for no reason," says her brother, 8-year-old Christian. He remembers his big sister, the girl who loved Fruit Loops cereal and laughed really loud.
"We don't forget her, but we move on because she's in a better place," he tells us. Do you miss her? He nods.
Little Leana knows they are marking what would have been her sister's 18th birthday.
"I like when she used to be kissing me and I like when she used to be hugging me and she'd teach me how to ride bikes," she said.
Kiana's friends wear angel wings in her honor, and together they grieve.
"We love her. We miss her," they said. "We don't want to see nobody else having to go through the stuff we go through, having to plan balloon releases for our sister or get-togethers to remember her."
"She should be here with us and us not having to go through all of that," they said through tears. "So we don't wish that on nobody else."
WE'RE COMING TOGETHER
As their prayers take to the sky, back here on earth -- in the earth -- change is sprouting.
"As far as things that the community is doing, number one, the community is coming together, and the east side is being taken back," said Cherie Mixon, a church minister.
Gardopia is a community garden that is taking root in one of the areas that has seen the most violent crime. Created and maintained by volunteers, it's one of many new projects in the Promise Zone.
"There are several different entities -- out-of-school programs, things for families, the Gardens -- there's so much that is coming together," Mixon said. "It's not one person or one entity standing alone. We are all working arm-in-arm."
That was clear at a recent "cardboard kids" rally against child abuse sponsored by many of the community partners who are building a better life on the east side -- one hug and one handshake at a time.
The message is clear: Stop the violence. Everyone's dream matters.
"It might be about getting parents to walk kids to school or it might be about My Brothers’ Keeper and helping them to be good men and good fathers in the lives of our children," said Tony Leveritt with the Promise Zone.
DO IT FOR OUR CHILDREN
Children are at the heart of lots of changes here.
- The Wheatley Sports Complex is a safe haven where they can play.
- Kids of all ages are enjoying the hike and bike trail along Salado Creek, building bridges to fitness and a better life.
- A $2 million upgrade is in the works for Martin Luther King Park.
And while police have been working diligently on solutions, it just may be the preachers who turn the tide.
"We have to start by being the example of love, one to the other," Mixon said. "That's what bridging the gap is all about: showing the love of Christ, giving of ourselves to serve our neighbor."
Neighborhood rallies are happening regularly as the faith community takes the power of prayer to the people who need it most.
On one recent night, they closed Martin Luther King Drive, turning away cars and giving the green light to positive change.
It’s safe to say that nearly every person in attendance had been touched by violence, so they stood, several hundred strong, united in silence.
Their solemn vow: We shall overcome.