In between bites of their tasty hamburgers and hot dogs, the children at National Night Out in Richmond hear a message.
"Violence is not the way."
"If you turn to crime, throw all your dreams into the trash."
Police officers, community leaders, and parents hammered that message home to a receptive audience of kids. Grandmothers like Joyce Jones say they've had enough of the violence. She told her 6-year-old grandson, Taesuan Jones, how to escape violence.
"I tell you to walk away, you have to know when to say 'no' and fighting is not the answer," Jones told Taesuan. The boy nodded.
"I think it's the right thing to do when you see that for real," Taesuan replied back to his grandma.
This is Richmond's 20th year hosting a National Night Out. Around the country, some cities have been doing it for 26 years. But critics and skeptics say this event doesn't prevent or stop the violence. Just a week earlier in Richmond, a man and a woman were shot and killed as they sat in their car at a stoplight. And on Monday, a newspaper delivery man was shot in the leg while driving on I-80 near Richmond.
Apparently, the culprits didn't get the National Night Out message. So the big question has to be asked, "Is National Night Out a waste of time?" Supporters of the event without hesitation say, "No! National Night matters!"
"Every community member that you touch, every piece of information you give to empower somebody to raise awareness, it makes a difference," Michelle Milam, a National Night Out organizer, said.
Hamburgers, hot dogs, and an anti-crime message. Now, that's a combo worth fighting for.