AUSTIN, Texas — Guns Down in Givens Park is a new initiative put on by nonprofit Rolliemanland to end gun violence in East Austin.
Members of the community, like Neyka Arnold, are joining the fight to save the future of a park that’s been in her family for generations.
“I grew up here. I played kickball here. I was a cheerleader here. A lot of people are known in Austin today because of this park,” recalled Arnold.
Arnold says, the violence doesn’t stop her from supporting the community in East Austin. She feels if anything, the violence is bringing the community closer together in hopes of stopping it.
Givens Park is located in the heart of the historic Black district of East Austin. The 40-acre community park is named in memory of Dr. Everett H. Givens a beloved dentist and World War I veteran.
Arnold says, it’s a safe space where members of the community can come together to address issues like gun violence, following multiple incidents at the park involving firearms. Neighbors are calling on each other to take a stand for the greater good, in hopes of saving the park from closure.
"I have a 5-year-old son that I have to protect and I’m going to do everything in me,” said Arnold.
Mayor Pro-Tem Natasha Harper-Madison says, the rise in gun violence isn’t just a thing in Capital City.
“We have to be really cognizant in the fact that the uptake in violence is nationwide. Austin is unique in a lot of ways, but not in this way. And I really want people to understand that there are things there are problematic elements, including the pandemic, including workforce development, including education, including all these other things that that are a part of the problem,” said Harper-Madison.
Harper-Madison went on to say officials are planning to renovate the park with new amenities and resources for everyone in the community to enjoy.
It’s a plan Neyka believes is key in the fight for change at Givens Park. Arnold feels by implementing healthier mechanisms and more healing, the park should stay open for generations to come.