YOUNGSTOWN - Despite the cold and rain, hundreds of people took part Sunday in a parade and rally to kick off the second annual Nonviolence Week.
Among those were the family and friends of Jamail Johnson, who was was shot and killed Feb. 6, 2011, at a Youngstown State University fraternity house party.
''I have hope that the violence will someday end. We need to stop the violence,'' Johnson's mother, Shirlene Hill said, adding that the event helps provide hope and support to her family.
Nonviolence Week kicked off Sunday with a peace parade of more than 50 units in downtown Youngstown.
Columbus Jones, 23, was sentenced to 92 1/2 years to life in prison for Johnson's death. His brother, Mark Jones, is set for trial in November.
The parade traveled from YSU's Williamson College of Business Administration to the city's downtown.
Cortland resident Madonna Pinkard said it is important that everyone learn the importance of peace and nonviolence.
''I'm glad and proud to be participating today because crime and violence in our communities has to stop. That's why I am here. It is important that the message today is heard loud and clear by everyone,'' Pinkard said.
Penny Wells, event organizer and director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, said the parade had 55 units and included many local nonprofit organizations such as youth, school, college, athletic and church groups, civic organizations and local businesses.
"What we're hoping from all of this is to get people to at least for one week focus on the principles of nonviolence," Wells said.
Sojourn to the Past is a national group that takes high school students to the South to visit Civil Rights sites and meet leaders of the movement.
The group United Purpose II built a large float covered with peace signs and carrying 15 members.
Group president Maggi Gratz, of Youngstown, said the student organization works with ex-offenders to create peace not only on the YSU campus but the community at large.
''We know that crime has touched this area severely with violence, and we want to do our part in pushing for peace. There is an important message this week gets across to the public,'' Gratz said.
Gratz said this year's event had a better turnout than last year's.
"I think the biggest thing that touches me is the younger generation that's out here," she said.
Wells said the event started in 2009 when the Sojourn students decided to hold a nonviolence week in Youngstown schools during the first week in October.
The next year, the students convinced city council, Youngstown school board and YSU trustees to pass resolutions making the first full week in October Nonviolence Week. In 2011, the students decided to hold a nonviolence parade and rally to kick off the week.
Wells said the group hopes to increase participation from surrounding counties.
Many other activities are planned for Nonviolence Week.
Jeff Steinberg, national director of Sojourn to the Past, will be speaking today at East and Chaney high schools and the Youngstown library.
The event was organized by the Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, Youngstown city and schools, ACTION, and Youngstown State University's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity.