January 09, 2014
By Charlene Muhammad
LAWT Contributing Writer
Residents, community activists, clergy and peace keepers marched for peace throughout Watts on January 4.
Their theme was “Stop the Violence! Stop the Killing!” They aimed to set a tone for peace in 2014. Ultimately, they hope to help eradicate ‘Black-on-Black” violence, organizers said.
Reverend K.W. Tulloss, president of Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s L.A. Branch, and co-organizers said they would also take the march to other communities plagued by senseless killings.
“Ultimately we pray that 2014 will be a year of peace and violence will come down if just a little bit through our efforts. Every life matters. If it’s just one person that we save through this march, it matters,” stated Rev. Tulloss.
Following prayer and a 10 a.m. press conference, peaceful demonstrators marched from Bethel Missionary Baptist Church to each of Watts’ four housing projects - Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts, Jordan Downs and Hacienda Village.
Speakers included Rev. Dr. Reginald Pope, pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Betty Day, community elder/leader (of the Watts Gang Task force), Carson Councilmember and State Assembly candidate Mike Gipson, Elder Michael Cummings, Andre Christian (Watts gang intervention specialist), Pastor Shane Scott, activist Najee Ali and Perry Crouch (Watts Gang Task Force)
Vicky Lindsey (Project Cry No More), Reverend Benny “Taco” Owens (Detours), and Skipp Townsend (2nd Call) represented the Southern California Cease Fire Committee. Michelle Chambers of Congresswoman Janice Hahn’s office and representatives of Councilmember Joe Busciano also attended.
Day and other women of Watts formed the Watts Gang Task Force after becoming fed up with countless murders in their community in 2005, Cummings said when he introduced her.
If the community wants to make any progress at peace or solving any other problems, it mustn’t forget the women, Day insisted.
“You wouldn’t be able to come in here now if it hadn’t been for these women,” said Day, pointing to Lindsey and several others standing next to her.
“Yeah, we had bats, but the crime came down and it’s still down a little bit. I’m saying we don’t need all that praise about what we’ve done. We know what we’ve done. We know we’ve still got something to do. All of us need to be working together, not some of us in spots,” Day continued.
Low Down, a gang intervention and prevention specialist, urged the coalition to devote consistent attention, not just one day, to their peace keeping efforts.
He said he’s seen a lot growing up in Nickerson Gardens and the peace advocates’ support means a lot. “We have lost a lot of young people out here ... I have lost loved ones here, and it’s not easy and it’s not hard but that’s what makes us work harder and continue to trust in the lord,” he said.
A lot hinges on pastors, Low Down added: “You can preach all day in them four walls. You can save the church all day but we’ve got to save the community. We’ve got to come out in this community and save our people, and we can’t be afraid!”
For Councilmember Gipson, the march was a fitting way to give back to the community that helped to rear him.
“I am a Watts son. I was raised here in Watts, but more importantly, I am also a father - a father whose son was killed at three-years-old, and I’ve said that I want no other children or family to go through what my family went through,” Councilmember Gipson said.
He added, “This walk is not a political walk. It’s a walk which I believe in wholeheartedly, because even though I may not know the names of the children or the young people that live here in Watts, they’re my children! Those are my sons and daughters.”
Charlene Muhammad, a speaker and multi-award-winning journalist, serves as National Correspondent for The Final Call Newspaper and is host/executive producer of “Liberated Sisters” heard on 90.7 FM KPFK.org and “Liberated Sisters Radio” on www.blogtalkradio.com/liberated-sisters.