BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – On Tuesday, CBS 42 hosted a community conversation on the reality of gun violence and its impact on families across the community.

It was another opportunity for victims and their families to bring the issue to light and something everyone continues to say it will take all of us to fix.

Zamir McNeal, a sophomore at Huffman High School, said the teens feel like they’re constantly having an internal battle between their conscience and fighting for themselves.

“Honestly I don’t think you can move forward because you can’t move forward until something has been done,” McNeal said. “We as teens, all we just ask for is just participation from the adults in our community.”

Teens McNeal, Mekhiah Canady and Arionna Boswell all joined the conversation and said they’re not getting information from adults at school about where to get help. They said they want change, but they are going to need the message to originate from their peers.

“We can tell but it’s hard, it’s hard to speak up when you know you can suffer from the same consequences someone [else] just suffered from,” Canady said.

Sheree Kennon founded What About Us in 2021 when she was coping with the loss of her son – to help moms like her.

“We are the solution as a whole, the community, family friends, everyone, but we have to get on the same page,” Kennon said.

What About Us is hosting a community event Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. to teach the community steps to help stop bleeding if they come upon someone who gets hurt, but to also offer an opportunity to collect blood donations for gunshot victims.

The teens at our conversation said the message coming from a trusted peer may help to spur a more positive cycle, to get more buy-in from others.

“People at school want to be like everybody else,” Boswell said. “They want to have the same thing that everyone else has.”

The City of Birmingham is launching its RESTORE Juvenile Re-Entry Program next week – to address the environment around the homes of kids in the system. Presiding Jefferson County Family Court Judge Janine Hunt-Hilliard said she’s seen both sides of the issue – the perpetrator and the victim.

“We’re going to identify those kids and begin to not only put services around the kids but around their families,” Hunt-Hilliard said. “If you go right back into that same environment it’s pretty hard to maintain the progress that you’ve made. It’s hard to stay out of trouble when there’s nothing but trouble around you.”

RESTORE will launch March 1 helping kids aged 16 to 19 to address root causes of violence.

CBS 42 is partnering with and the Birmingham Times to continue telling these stories beyond the violence.