April 5, 2007
By Andy Hart • Courtesy of the Hartford News • 12:00 PM EST
Reverend Patrice Smith is taking her anti-violence activism from the streets to the campaign trail and, she hopes, the mayor's office.
A life-long resident of Hartford and a minister at True Life Ministries on Wethersfield Avenue, Smith announced she was running for mayor in January of this year. She also ran for mayor in 2003.
Smith can often be seen at rallies calling for an end to the seemingly endless series of shootings which have plagued Hartford for the past few years. She is President of the group Saving Our Kids from the Streets and a member of Mothers United Against Violence.
Although her primary goal is reducing violent crime, especially among young people, Smith said that Hartford's problems don't stop there.
"As I go around, talking to people, I hear about problems with education, [problems] among the elderly with getting their prescription medicines, people are scared to come out of their houses...the whole city is fading away. I don't want my city to die off," she said.
Although Smith said she had a good upbringing, she did get into some trouble as a youth.
"I can relate to these kids...I lived in Stowe [Village] and got into a lot of things that these kids are getting into, although I never got into the drugs. God kept sending angels to save me...finally I decided that God must have something in store for me," she remembers.
Smith said much of the violence among Hartford's youth stems from a lack of opportunities.
"Many of these kids are not being trained. They're not fed properly. They have few social skills and there are no jobs for them."
As a result, she said, many turn to the violent business of street-level drug dealing. "These kids want the blocks, want the corners [to deal drugs] and they'll do whatever they have to do to get them. They need to survive."
Smith said Hartford has the money to do more for its youth but that money is often being spent in the wrong places.
Among other things Smith advocates strict enforcement of the city's curfew and truancy laws and also feels there should be a training course for young parents.
She herself ran a life-skills training course with former Harlem Globetrotter Daryl Hanson. The city allowed them to use the Blue Hills Center for the program until it closed for lack of funding.
"Everytime something good gets going they shut it down because there's no money," she said and added that since it closed, some of the kids who came have been shot.