Front Row video aims to stem city violence
by Tina MacIntyre-Yee, D&C Public safety reporter – April 20, 2015
An anti-violence video was created to help Rochester youth make better choices, showing the three paths that can happen.
Violence brought them together. Their goal: Keep youths from getting caught up in violence.
The Front Row Coalition, a name they adopted from the name of the movie, has created a 16-minute anti-gun violence video showing three different routes that can happen to youths based on their actions. They could graduate from high school, go to jail, or end up in a casket.
The video, which has a free screening at 5:30 pm Monday at the School of the Arts, depicts what can happen if a teen makes a wrong choice. It features a grieving mother whose son was murdered and an incarcerated young man, convicted of murder, who talks, at one point crying, about wishing he had made better choices.
The committee, originally formed from members of a gun buy-back program, is made up of a host of people, organizations, city police and the school district.
“I had to do it for my son. I don’t ever want another parent to feel what I felt,” said Toni Nelson, 45, of Rochester, whose son, Michael, 24, was shot to death in an apartment on Chili Avenue in February 2014. Her son, police said, was an innocent victim killed while he was visiting a friend and her cousin.
“How can you listen to a parent whose child was murdered and not feel something?” Nelson said. She said being interviewed for the film was hard, but she hopes it will make a difference in the lives of youths.
“I wish my son had made a different choice of friend and where he’d hang out that night,” she said. “He might still be here.”
Like others, Nelson joined The Front Row Coalition because of their care and concern about Rochester youths.
Susan Morehouse, one of the driving forces on the committee and a resident of the 19th Ward, said she often hears gunshots in the summer.
“I see these kids as 5-, 6-, 7-year-olds and then teenagers and then they get shot and killed. It hurts, it breaks my heart,” she said. “You want to warn them, help get their attention, help them choose a different path.”
The idea came when the 2013 fall gun buy-back program wanted to use a video by the Rochester Youth Violence Partnership.
The partnership, a program headed by the University of Rochester Medical Center’s regional trauma center with area partners, works with hospitalized youths who suffered gun or knife wounds. However, the program would not let the group use its video because the trauma unit video was not geared for prevention, Morehouse said, but it did encourage her to create her own — which the coalition did primarily from money left over from the gun buy-back program as well as other donations.
Youths need help, Morehouse said, on “thinking forward to how the consequences of today’s actions could bear on their life for many years or their life.”
The video will be distributed with discussion questions created by Dr. Michael Scharf, chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UR, she said.
Morehouse thinks the video is an “important piece of education” for youths. “I’d like to see it shown in every classroom with discussion,” she said.
The Rochester City School District, which let the group use school property for some of the video footage as well as putting it in touch with students to be used as actors, plans to show the video to students in grades four through nine, with the possibility of showing it to lower and higher grades.
Marjorie Lefler, district coordinator of human services systems, said perhaps the video will help students make better decisions that will keep them out of harm’s way.
“We’d like every student to see it at least once,” said Lefler. With a focus on kids who are considered high risk, she said, they are “really hoping to use it as a prevention tool.”
“I think sometimes we just have to raise the subject and have the discussion,” she said, emphasizing there had to be discussion about what students see in the film, “and have those teachable moments with the kids.” She said it’s important to have them see how one thing leads to another and how “gang violence leads to horrible violence or death.”
A total of 1,000 DVDs of the movie have been made, with the school district getting 300, Morehouse said. The remaining 700 will be distributed at the Premiere and afterward to agencies and groups such as recreation centers, charter schools and the Boys and Girls Club, she said.