Last Friday, Richmond Ceasefire held its second citywide walk of 2016.
“Honk your horn for peace!” shouted Pastor Donnell Jones, Executive Director of Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization and co-coordinator of Ceasefire, as he led a group of 25 participants holding signs that read “Honk for Ceasefire” and “¡Pite Para Paz!” down Carlson Boulevard.
Homicides are up in Richmond. At this time last year, 13 homicides had been reported in the city. So far this year, there have been 18. In the face of this violence, Ceasefire continues to hold its weekly neighborhood walks, biannual citywide walks, and concurrent activities. The group also plans to grow by hiring a new project coordinator.
Friday’s walk was attended by 12 members of Teach for America (TFA) of Richmond, as well as two teachers from Verde Elementary School and three of their students.
Tyler Hester, Senior Managing Director for TFA in Richmond, said TFA fellows come out in force for the walk at the beginning of each school year. “That’s how we want our teachers to operate,” he said, “in deep solidarity with their kids and families and this place.”
Vice Mayor Eduardo Martinez also joined Friday’s walk. Ceasefire “is an essential component to the raising of the consciousness of the city,” Martinez said.
The walk began in south Richmond at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church and continued to Pullman Point, New Gethsemane Church of God and Pogo Park before ending at North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church.
Bennie Singleton, 82 and a Richmond resident since 1943, remembers a time when she could walk anywhere in the city without fear. Now, she said, that’s no longer the case. She has participated in nearly every Ceasefire walk since the group’s inception in 2011.
Ceasefire co-coordinator Jones said he lost his 16-year-old nephew to gun violence 13 years ago. “Nobody wants to see your friends and family and loved ones and your hometown go down to crime and violence,” he said.
Throughout the walk, cars honked in support of the group. “See, they know us here!” said walk participant Carrie Hunter.
Richmond’s Ceasefire program is currently managed by Richmond Police Lieutenant Eric Smith. Richmond Police Department Chief of Staff and Public Information Officer Lieutenant Felix Tan said the department plans to create a new, separate project coordinator position for Ceasefire that will be staffed by a civilian.
The position will be funded by a federal grant that was secured in June with the help of Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), Tan said. It will likely be six to eight months before the position is active.
“Greater days are ahead for Ceasefire,” Jones said at the walk’s last stop.
Tonight’s weekly neighborhood Ceasefire walk starts at 7 p.m. at Saint Mark’s Catholic Church, 159 Harbour Way in Richmond.