Barbara Merriweather, whose teen-age son Kendall was gunned down Dec. 11 by a youth who robbed him of his boom box radio in Southeast Washington, has heard residents talk about fleeing the District because of the violence.

Instead of fleeing, Merriweather said, the community needs to come together to stop the killings, which last year claimed the lives of 228 people, 19 of them juveniles.

"Our children are being killed and there's a reason why," she said. "I know that drugs play a part, but society as a whole also plays a part. We have to put some morals back into our children and back into society."

Yesterday, she said she had formed an organization called Citizens Redirecting Youth (CRY) to bring about change in the attitudes and behavior of the city's youth.

D.C. police reported that through Nov. 30 of last year, 199 juveniles were the victims of assaults with guns. Of the 228 homicides last year, 57 percent were drug-related, police said.

Merriweather said she is distressed by recent news reports in which teen-agers boasted about using handguns. "We have to teach them to respect and value life," she said.

This week, Merriweather met with council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) to draw final plans for CRY. She said she also wants to get the city's youth involved in her group, inviting them to talk about their problems and what adults can do to help.

"I really want them to come in and be the ones to shepherd over the organization," said Merriweather, who is a secretary for the Internal Revenue Service.

In addition, Schwartz said she hoped to get city agencies involved in providing services to meet the needs of the youth.

Merriweather said she eventually hoped the organization will spearhead youth activities and programs that reinforce self-esteem, confidence and strong moral values. She said she wants to involve popular local go-go performers, such as Chuck Brown whose rap music D.C. teen-agers admire, as well as national celebrities, including Stevie Wonder.

Merriweather had vowed at the time of her son's death to do something to stop the killings.

She said her husband Michael and brother William Alston'el, an inmate at the Lorton minimum security facility, helped her to come up with the idea for the organization. Another Lorton inmate, Finis Green-bey, drew a poster for the group.

She said a candlelight vigil is planned for 5 p.m. next Saturday, along Martin Luther King Avenue SE. Marchers will place a wreath at the corner where Kendall Merriweather was killed and parade through drug-trafficking areas in the neighborhood.

"If Martin Luther King {whose birthday is Jan. 15} were living today, he would be crying for our youth," Merriweather said.