Community to hold series of events against local violence
on February 26, 2010
Since Jan. 1 2009, 54 homicides have been recorded in the city of Richmond.
But it was a non-deadly outburst of violence earlier this month, inside the walls of a local church during prayer services, that prompted local religious and civil leaders to coalesce behind action.
“We’ve been feeling our young people’s pain on the streets of this city,” said Rev. Andre Schumake, president of the Richmond Improvement Association. “And now we’re having a spiritual explosion.”
On Feb. 14, three gunmen walked into New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ, sought out targets, and opened fire, according to police. A 14-year-old boy and a 19-year-old man were wounded.
The brazen act drew national media attention and the focus of the local community. Now, religious and civic leaders are set to embark upon a two-week schedule of public outreach, mass prayer, rallies and symposiums in opposition to violence.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted an emergency measure freeing up to $10,000 to provide fliers and logistical support for the actions.
The events begin Saturday, with a 9 a.m. prayer breakfast at DeJean Middle School, followed by leaders and volunteers dispersing throughout the city’s Iron Triangle neighborhoods. Schumake said he expects 500 people to knock on 3,000 doors Saturday, where they will pass out anti-violence and community resource literature and converse with residents about their concerns.
“I believe that God is using Richmond as our proving ground where men of faith can come together across denominational lines,” Schumake said. More than 80 local churches will be involved in the upcoming events, Schumake said.
The remainder of the schedule includes:
– More door-to-door work on Sunday.
– Simultaneous prayer circles on 210 street corners at 11 a.m on March 6.
– A mass rally at noon on March 6 at New Gethsemane Church.
– A health, education and employment fair at the Civic Center also on March 6, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, public support was not unanimous. Jerome Smith, a Roman Catholic chaplain, objected to city government support.
“Let the secular be secular, and let the faith-based be faith-based,” he said.
But the Council and other religious leaders were not persuaded.
“This is where we’re drawing the line,” said Councilwoman Maria Viramontes.
Councilman Nat Bates, the lone black member of the council, said the diverse city was united in its concern over ongoing violence.
“This is not just an African-American problem,” Bates said. “This extends throughout the city.”
Of the 47 homicides recorded in Richmond in 2009, 34 were black and 13 were Latino, according to police records.
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