The Rev. Charles Harrison's brother was killed in Louisville, Kentucky, at the age of 21.
“I will never forget that, when my parents received the phone call to inform them that my brother had been killed in Louisville,” Harrison said, speaking to a crowd Thursday at the 29th annual Allen Superior Court Conference on Youth.
“I knew something terrible had happened because I heard my father scream out and my father was screaming, then I heard my mother and my mother was screaming and she was crying.”
Harrison's brother was shot 10 times and dropped out of a vehicle. He walked a half-mile trying to find help before he died, Harrison said.
Harrison said as a 14-year-old boy, he was rage-filled over his brother's death.
“I was so angry, I was so infuriated by what I was seeing at 14 ... the only thought I had was, 'How can I get revenge?'” Harrison said. “So at 14, me and my friends had planned to kill them. And either we were going to kill them or they were going to kill us.”
Harrison said a group of men from the community heard of the plan and confronted him and his friends and convinced them not to follow through on their plan.
“Those men invested in my life and in the life of the other young men who were going to carry out this killing,” Harrison said. “And it was on that day that those men kept me and the other five young men from falling off the cliff.”
Harrison later became senior pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church and for last 20 years has worked with TenPoint Coalition to reduce instances of violence in neighborhoods throughout Indianapolis.
“Like most people, when I was first in Indianapolis I felt like the violence was not my business, it was not my concern,” Harrison said. “It was not affecting me, and because it was not affecting me, it was not my concern.”
Harrison was invited to an event by two members of his congregation where he heard a story about a group of Boston ministers making an impact on violence in the Dorchester area. Harrison said that story inspired him to get involved and work to curb the violence in his own area. That story, Harrison said, reminded him of the investment someone had made in his life years before.
Harrison is president of the Indianapolis TenPoint Coalition, an organization that strives to end youth violence. Harrison's group focuses on young men and boys between the ages of 12 and 24.
“Pastor Harrison has been instrumental in us doing this work at TenPoint Coalition, because he is the master, he is the standard, he is the best practice,” said Joe Jordan, Fort Wayne United co-chair and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne.
Thursday's conference was an opportunity to highlight and hear from those who have been affected by violence and homicide, Fort Wayne United director Iric Headley said. The conference also featured a panel with Harrison and Paige Clingenpeel, a licensed mental health therapist and media personality.
Events like Thursday's are important, Headley said, because they help educate the community and those who are working to support families and end violence.
“We learned how to support the families better, we learned about the financial impact, we learned about the emotional impact, the physical impact. All those things we learned today from just us putting this forum on,” Headley said.
“There were so many components to it that I didn't even know that we learned today and learned from just being around the families that lost someone to homicide.”
Fort Wayne United partnered with Allen Superior Court for the conference, which featured keynote speakers including Harrison.
A Fort Wayne TenPoint Coalition is in the works, and officials are planning a comprehensive program launch, Headley said. Fort Wayne United will soon release a strategic plan to hold the organization accountable to its goals and inform the community on how it will measure success.
There is no official launch date for Fort Wayne's TenPoint Coalition, Headley said.
“Our goal is to launch in a big way. We're going to have training, we're going to have some walks, Rev. Harrison is going to come back to town with his team,” Headley said. “There's so many different components we're going to be able to do.”