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With a documentary film crew trailing him this evening, now 11-year-old Elijah Lee informed Roanoke Rapids City Council of his second Child Abuse Awareness March.

The event will be held March 2 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Centennial Park.

“Last year we had over 200 people in attendance but this year we are working hard to double that number,” the KIPP Gaston College Preparatory fifth-grader said. “We want to show our children they are loved and we hear them … We want family and friends to talk about this issue at home so we are asking those who come out to make signs of support, signs that call for an end to violence, signs that tell our children they are loved and will be protected.”

Lee gave council background on the intent of his original march last year — the matter of a friend who experienced child abuse firsthand. “This harsh act not only changed this girl’s life but the environment around her … Remember, when one falls, we all fall. But when one rises, we all rise. So I would like to be the one who rises for myself and others. Often times adults ignore and discount the voice of children, but I am here tonight to let you know that my generation will stand up for what we believe is right.”

Every child should have the right to feel safe in their home, feel loved by their parents or guardians, the right to wake up without hunger, and the right to not feel abuse, he said to the panel.

He touched on suicide and sexual abuse, saying, “Suicide is real in our communities and young people are turning to suicide as a way to relieve their pain.”

On sexual abuse, he turned to the life story of poet Maya Angelou and her experience as a young child. “I speak loudly for Dr. Angelou as a 5-year-old little girl in pain. I speak loudly for the child who is at home scared and afraid. I speak loudly for those kids who feel that their mother and father failed them. I speak loudly for that kid in foster care. I speak loudly for that child suffocating from his pain.”

He said the reality is today parents have to teach their children about gun violence and bullying. “Violence is everywhere today,” he said. “It is in homes, schools, places of worship, grocery stores, movie theaters, clubs, streets, everywhere.”

Said Lee: “It is sad to think as a young child, I can easily name more than three different school shootings such as Columbine; Parkland, Florida; Sandy Hook; Virginia Tech and many more.”

In researching the matter, he said, “It seems that shooters are motivated due to being bullied, family issues or mental health issues. This means as a community we need to help our youth. We need to provide counseling, listen to our young people, check in on their home situation (and more).”

He told council, “At times I get frustrated with kids cutting up at my school. It makes learning difficult and it can set the class back. But the truth is the best place for the troubled kid is to be in school. We cannot give up on them.”

Mayor Emery Doughtie told Lee, “I can tell you are very passionate about it. There’s very sad things happening in our community. They will continue to happen if we don’t do something and continue to work together.”