MARTINSVILLE, VA. – Friday marks three weeks since the deadly shootout at a busy Martinsville Restaurant, and that evening local men gathered to talk about how to make a change.
The shooting at El Norteno earlier this month rocked the Martinsville community. It left two dead, another two injured, and Martinsville City Councilman Chad Martin said a deep emotional toll.
Martin formed Beloved Community as a result.
“Society tells us not to cry, society tells us, you know be strong all the time, and that just doesn’t work. So we’re really trying to create an avenue for men to be able to talk,” Martin said.
The group meets every other Friday for dinner. Guns and fighting words are left at the door.
“There were some tears that were shed, there was some anger that was let out but not only do we want this to be a session where you can vent and let go of stuff, but now let’s talk about how we solve these issues,” Martin said.
This Friday was the group’s second meeting. Their goal is simple, but the path to getting there is not easy. Byant Kirby joined the effort to share his story and stand by Martin to affect change.
“We love and value everything about this community and it’s sad, very sad that it has to take something tragic for us to awaken and join arms to combat it,” Kirby said.
Martin said the chaos at the shooting was an eye-opener for the community, but that there also had been growing concern. He said the shooting blew all those concerns wide open and he’s confident others are ready to come to the table this time around.
“Chad Martin doesn’t have the answer, this is not a Chad Martin thing, this is a community thing, I want people to come into this space and other spaces that we create and say let’s figure it out together,” Martin said.
Community leaders are also working on a women’s group. The plan is to keep them separate at the start, but bring them together for bigger sessions in the future.