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NHS students hear from community on youth violence

Reginald Odom speaks to students at Natchez High School about the life of crime he used to lead during a nonviolence workshop hosted by local leaders and public officials. Odom was a career criminal that spent a large portion of his life in prison. He has since turned his life around and become an entrepreneur in Port Gibson. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Reginald Odom speaks to students at Natchez High School about the life of crime he used to lead during a nonviolence workshop hosted by local leaders and public officials. Odom was a career criminal that spent a large portion of his life in prison. He has since turned his life around and become an entrepreneur in Port Gibson. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

By Sarah Cook

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — With the recent fatal shooting of 16-year-old Jessie Taylor Jr., local leaders and public officials hosted a nonviolence workshop at the Natchez High School auditorium Friday afternoon.

Most of the senior class, along with several teachers, filled the seats.

Linda White, the grandmother of Jessie Taylor Jr. the 16-year-old that was shot and killed in late December, looks at a framed picture of her grandson while praying during the workshop. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Linda White, the grandmother of Jessie Taylor Jr. the 16-year-old that was shot and killed in late December, looks at a framed picture of her grandson while praying during the workshop. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Reginald Odom, a Port Gibson native who once led a life of high crime, was among the speakers.

“I’ve been to prison twice,” said Odom after reading his criminal record. “Now, I’m trying to dedicate my life to being a crusader against poor decisions, like violence.”

Educating teens on the negative outcomes of criminal activity, Odom said, is paramount to affecting positive change in the community—and saving lives. Through hosting workshops, such as the one Friday, he hopes to deliver a strong message to area youth and decrease the number of drug-related crimes.

“There is an influx of violence that plagues our community,” he said. “We need to work to prevent these crimes before they happen.”

The Rev. Bryant Herbert of Natchez Triumphant Seventh Day Advent echoed Odom’s message, and encouraged students to pursue a life of greatness by rising above temptation.

“You have to place yourself in a position to succeed,” said Herbert, stepping into the aisles of the auditorium. “Guard the avenues of your soul, and always stand on a firm foundation.”

Linda White, Taylor’s grandmother, was also in attendance. Holding a framed portrait of Taylor, White said Adams County youth need to be educated daily on violence and understand its fatal affects.

One of the event organizers Delvie Gales Sr. speaks to Natchez High School students during the workshop. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

One of the event organizers Delvie Gales Sr. speaks to Natchez High School students during the workshop. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

“I hope (the students) listened well and heed what was said. They need to hear this message all the time—not just today, but everyday.” White said. “What happened to my grandson, I hope that doesn’t happen to any other child.”

Other officials who addressed students included Sheriff Chuck Mayfield and County Court Judge Walt Brown.

Taylor was shot while allegedly attempting to purchase synthetic marijuana from residents Eddie Minor III, 18, and Emanuel C. Latham Jr., 15. Both were arrested Tuesday under charges of murder and armed robbery.

The Natchez Police Department, however, is still working to piece together the events and is asking anyone with information about the shooting to call Crime Stoppers at 601-442-5000.

Crime Stoppers offers rewards up to $1,000 for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect. Callers may remain anonymous.