The video above comes from a march to end violence organized by the Muskegon YMCA last weekend. The man speaking is Zawdie Abiade, who happens to be running for mayor of Muskegon. He also happens to be a former gang member.
"The gang was the only community I felt understood me," Abiade says. "What we need is somebody and people who understand what it is to be isolated, to be rejected, to be discriminated against, to be misunderstood."
State of Opportunity has been reporting this week on a gun battle last month in Muskegon that put children's lives at risk. Today, we close out our series by looking at gun violence at the community level.
In the Nelson neighborhood of Muskegon, where last month's gun battle happened, crimes listed as "weapons offenses" rose 680 percent from 2005 -2012.
Everyone we spoke with in the neighborhood says there's an active black market for guns there. Even kids know how to get their hands on a gun.
And gangs exert a constant pull on young people.
T.J. Chappel, who works on youth programming at the Muskegon YMCA, has asked kids why gangs are so prevalent.
"We say, 'Well, why do you think they want to be in a gang, what feeling do you get from this?' And they’re like, a lot of people come from one-parent households ... and that one parent is working all the time."
Chappel says for a lot of kids, what it really comes down to is feeling loved.
"The gangs replace that love they’re missing at home," he says. "And it’s really tough when you think about it, cause it’s almost like a lose-lose type of situation there."
Visit our State of Opportunity page to hear the full story about what Chappel and others are doing to fix the problem.