Justice of the Peace Tom Gillam III remembers being called in for a homicide at an apartment complex earlier this year and thinking, “enough is enough.”
He was tired of senseless deaths and brought his concerns into the ears of several pastors to form a plan. The idea was to bring pastors and community leaders together, bringing them closer to ethnic barriers and racial lines.
The first meeting took place a little over a month ago in Gillam’s courtroom. He said there was representation from the Hispanic community, the white community, the African American, Vietnamese and Asian communities as well as elected officials.
A community forum to address violence in the city is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 30 at the Rock Island Baptist Church, 549 W. 11th St.
“We’re asking the whole community to come out, regardless of religious affiliation or political beliefs, regardless of who likes whom,” Gillam said. “We want to do something to stop senseless crimes and murders.”
The hope is to introduce new programs and reintroduce old programs such as Project Life Changers, which is strictly for young men who have mentors.
“I’ve seen enough,” he said. “I’ve cried too many tears and gone to too many funerals.”
Port Arthur has seen seven homicides this year, so far, although two are being investigated as accidental.
There were also other acts of violence, including a shooting of two college students.
Gillam thanked the men who worked with him, including Reverend Troy Hopkins, Reverend Kevin Domingo, Reverend Jack Chatman, Reverend Darrel Anderson, Reverend Kalan Gardner and Eric Jones, among others. Gilliam is also a pastor.
Gardner said the group wanted to be part of the solution. He talked about Project Life Changers, saying it’s a three-phase program that helps young men appearing in a courtroom. Upon successful completion, the person’s record is cleared and they will have a fresh start and can return to school.
“The motto is think before you do it,” Gardner said, adding that decisions have consequences and responsibility.
The program’s reintroduction has been delayed due to COVID, but Gardner is eager to see it implemented.
Joseph Guillory, currently Trustee of the Port Arthur Independent School Board and winner of the Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Democratic Primary, joined the organizing group and is an advocate for the Life Changer program.
Gardner said the solution to the violence must be a community effort.
“No matter your age, no matter your race, no matter your religion. We need everyone on board to save a generation and help a generation be the best they can be,” Gardner said. “We need a unified force to help improve the situation in Port Arthur.”
Gillam believes this battle will be won with God’s help.