LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Seventy-one families are without someone at the table this week, heartbroken as gun violence reaches an all-time high in Little Rock.
This past week, Little Rock tied a record set in 1993. What was the city’s deadliest year is repeating itself in 2022.
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do,” said Leifel Jackson.
Jackson is a former gang leader in Little Rock now standing up against the violence alongside other former gang members from opposite neighborhoods.
“I’m sitting at the table with people who I was vowed to kill,” said Jackson.
At a second meeting between members, empty seats are filled again, some familiar faces and others new.
Each is hoping to share a message with the young kids involved in the current violence: Change is always possible.
“Give yourself a chance to live past 15,” said Jackson.
In the 1990s, Jackson was one of the most notorious gang leaders in Little Rock. It was a life he had chosen early on and one, in the 90s, he thought he’d be stuck in forever.
“At that time, I said, I see myself dead or in prison for the rest of my life,” said Jackson.
After a decade in federal prison, the gates opened, and Jackson chose a different path out.
“Some things you can’t take back and some things that you do, you feel that even the creator looks down on you and there’s no way to come back from that, and I’m one to tell you, that’s not true,” said Jackson.
“We were having a career day and I told the audience, I wanted to be a crip,” said Tim Campbell.
Campbell was born into a family of gang members, marked from the beginning.
“You get out of your bed; you get on the floor, and you sit there in a curled-up position until the guns and whatever’s going on outside stops,” said Campbell.
Campbell says he thought gang involvement was going to be his only option when he got older until he saw life outside the violence.
“Our kids, they can’t be anything that they can’t see,” said Campbell. “They need examples to know that I’m not a product of this, I can be a product of something greater if we allowed them a chance to see it.”
Caleb Glason also at the table, got involved in violence early on but realized quickly it wasn’t the right path.
“I just knew seeing all that blood gushing from my neck, I knew I was finna die,” said Glason.
On April 28, 2007, Glason was shot in the neck during a fight. He almost died.
“I just remember thinking, laying there like I’m still alive like I got to change, something has got to change,” said Glason.
That change is something many sitting at the table are still searching for. Not for themselves, but for others who are now following in their footsteps.
“While we’re waiting, black boys and girls are still dying,” said Willie Davis with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office.
Before moving to PCSO, Davis worked for the Little Rock Police Department. He started at LRPD in 1991,
Community policing on a bike on 12th street, he met the men he sits with today, changed, and ready to serve alongside the badge.
“To know that I have a group of black men in this city that’s saying look man we broke some things we tore up some stuff, we want to help fix it,” said Davis.
“Usually when we talk about service, we think about a hammer hitting a nail, or someone with an orange coat on in the middle of traffic, but I think for me the ultimate service is allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to tell your story,” said Campbell.
At the end of the meeting, chairs are pushed in and the table is empty again but the message of change still lingers behind.