Trying to end the cycle of violence

After a month that saw reports of students stripping and filming underclassmen in a locker room, stealing a MacBook laptop and reporting they’d been punched in the face by a peer who demanded money, Roxborough High School turned to a group of activists to speak Friday about bad decisions leading to bad results.

“If we go by statistics, some of y’all in here aren’t going to make it,” said Malik Aziz, chairman of a group empowering ex-offenders to speak on youth-violence issues. “Three out of seven will go to prison. One in five will not be alive by the time you’re 21. Half of you won’t graduate.”

Among Aziz’s “been there, done that” team was Bill Cobb, who said he served more than six years in prison for robbery and kidnapping but has since transformed into a professional and family man; council-at-large candidate Lawrence Clark; and Cliff Skinner, who served 15 years for murder. (Skinner says he’s been to “seven funerals between December and today,” including one for his nephew who was “shot 18 times” when a November carjacking ended on the edge of Penn’s campus.)

“We’re here today because we care,” Skinner said.

Skinner described the scene after the event: “One kid came up to me, to shake my hand, to tell me he’d lost an uncle and brother recently,” he recalled. “Identifying with them is the key, bring it down to their level.”

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