MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Their message is unmistakable. These students want peace in their home town. With a banner flying and drums playing, Moss Point students marched down Main Street Saturday morning, cheering with hope that Moss Point will one day be free from violence.
"We don't want to be viewed as violent," said Junior Candace Pickett. "We are mostly a peaceful community, and that's how we want the public to see us."
When students in the Moss Point School District heard their peers were arrested and charged in the October murder of Michael David Porter, after Porter stopped at a gas station for directions to a football game, they knew they had to turn things around for their city. The Superintendent's Student Advisory Council planned Saturday's walk as a show of support for the Porter family and as a demonstration of their committment to non-violence.
"It made us students realize that change must come," said students speaking to the crowd that gathered after the walk. "We cannot have others afraid to visit our small town. We want to do something about the violence. We want to change the violence."
"Right here, this is where we need to start," said Junior Carshaniqua Davison. "This is where we can start as the community and as the kids of Moss Point."
The community is ready to help them make that change.
"This is the generation that's going to change the face of Moss Point," said Church on the Rock Pastor Rodger Bradley to the crowd, as the stadium filled with applause.
"I'm just really, really proud and excited that these young people are stepping up to the plate," said Superintendent Kim Staley.
Over the past few months, the students have raised fifteen hundred dollars for their cause. The money they raised, along with other donations from businesses and organizations, was presented to Michael Porter's wife, Linda. She will donate those funds in her husband's memory.
Staley said, "It's just their way to show that they care, and also to show Ms. Porter that they care about her loss."
Porter, a Hattiesburg resident, said she has been deeply touched by the outpouring of support from the Moss Point community.
"I know Michael, if he were here, would certainly approve of what has come of this," Porter told the crowd. "Just to see students come together with such passion and conviction to do something, speak out against violence. It's very, very touching to me."
She says she has no bad feelings toward the Moss Point community and is pleased to see her husband's memory sparking such a movement.
"When we lose someone, we always want them remembered," Porter said. "We just think 'I hope that they're not forgotten.' And you know for something like this, you just think 'he's not forgotten,' and it's something that will go on and on and on. And that's a good feeling."
The students plan to walk annually to remind everyone that Moss Point is standing strong against violence.
"We have to grow up and live with this," said sophomore Charity Chandler. "It's like we have to take charge because we are going to be the adults in the future."