BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As violence sweeps through Buffalo's youth, Mad Dads of Buffalo is attempting to help teens choose a different path.
"A lot of it is not being reported because now, it's like people are getting used to violence in our community like it has become a subculture like it's the norm, and it's not the norm," Pastor Kenneth Simmons, the coordinator of Mad Dads of Buffalo, said.
"Things have gotten much worse, and the ages are younger because these children are more receptive, and they're having to grow up much faster. Now, you have children growing up without the luxury of just being kids," James Corbin, a member of Mad Dads of Buffalo, said.
Members of Mad Dads of Buffalo said this increase is because the community has failed. They said it takes a village to raise a child.
"But there's more to that proverb. It takes a village to make a child, but if that child does not feel love from that village it will burn the village down. We need to quote the whole entire proverb. The reason why we see the mayhem that is going on in the community is because the children don't believe in the village anymore. We have left these children out here to fend for themselves, to survive for themselves, and to do for themselves," Simmons said.
May of these men were imprisoned for crimes in the 1990s, they are now stepping up to combat the issues kids face.
"Did I contribute to it? Yes. That's one of the reasons why I'm here now. It's because I created the mess, and I feel like it's my responsibility to try to clean it up," Corbin said.
Lamar Scott said he was 19-years-old when he took his first life. Scott said the lesson he learned is it's not about why, but how he got into that position.
"It's not about the why. It's about how. Being that, all of the decisions that I made up until that point, caused me to be at the scene that day. If I would have had the courage to say no, which most children don’t… It's pure pressure," Scott said.
These men said they see how their lives would have been different if they had mentors like Mad Dads.
"It would have given me a foundation to build on. It would have given me the opportunity to see the alternative," Scott said.
That's why they're bringing that alternative to the table themselves by listening, talking and simply being present.
"You have the opportunity to step up and say, you know what? I have this green shirt on. I'm a Mad Dad. Me personally, I have no children. But I'm still a dad. Because a father or a dad is an individual who reaches out and teaches and it touches individuals lives," Scott said.
"Young brothers need to see that you can come from the East side of Buffalo, West side and North side, and you can become productive and positive. You don't have to let your community dictate what you end up being," Simmons said.