ATLANTA - A local doctor and Grammy Award-winning music producer hosted an event in Atlanta Sunday to inspire young people to stay away from gangs and crime.
"Put God first. Find somebody successful, you know what I'm saying? Copy some of that stuff if you got to," Big Block Spencer said while addressing the youth in attendance.
Big Block Spencer was one of many people encouraging dozens of middle schoolers from at risk communities to stay away from violence and reach for success at the event hosted by the Big-Timers Foundation and the Doc and the Block Podcast.
Dr, Scott Barbour
"They're at that vulnerable time in life where they can make decisions that will either negatively or positively impact their lives," Dr. Scott Barbour said.
"This is when the kids really start finding out who they are and what they want to be in life, and it's important to talk to them early and get the kids to try to be successful in their own way," UFC Fighter Cody Durden added.
According to the National Gang Center, the most common age to join a gang is 15, although it says kids are often exposed to gang activity between ages 12 and 14.
In Georgia, there are around 71,000 gang affiliates with 1,500 suspected gang networks, according to the Georgia Gang Investigators Association.
The state has already increased penalties for gang crimes earlier this year with a new law adding a mandatory five-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of a gang crime, and 10 years for anyone convicted of recruiting minors into a gang.
The group hopes events like the one held Sunday will inspire young people in attendance to avoid crime, and instead follow their dreams and strive for success.
"In life, you're going to have ups and downs, and we've all had them. But it's not what you do when you're down, it's what you do when you're at your lowest and how you come from being that to get on top again," former NFL player Charles White said.
"They have everything at their disposal to be successful in life. Everybody has within them the courage the power and the belief in themselves to be successful they just need guidance," Dr. Barbour added.