The sounds of peaceful fury
on March 8, 2010
For many of the nearly 1,000 people who took part in Saturday’s slate of peace events – including linking hands in a human chain around the New Gethsemane Church – the day had the unmistakable feel of a turning point.
“This shows that good people are ready to make a stand,” said Minister James Jones of Church of the Living God, one of roughly 80 area congregations involved in the anti-violence events. “The only way that this violence can continue is if good people do nothing.”
Pastor Charles Jones of Open Door Philadelphia Church of God in Christ strode and sang in the middle of the marching throng that traveled from City Hall to New Gethsemane at 2100 Roosevelt Avenue. The church was the site of a Feb. 14 shooting during prayer service. The attack prompted the largest anti-violence collaboration of area churches that anyone could remember.
“This is the most blessed event that can happen in Richmond,” Jones said.
Church and civic leaders – Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Council members Maria Viramontes, Nat Bates, Ludmyrna Lopez and Jeff Ritterman all marched with residents and clergy from City Hall to New Gethsemane Church Saturday – hailed the event, which capped two weeks of activism.
But top leaders also agree that the energy must be sustained to make lasting changes.
“The follow up to this: we’re planning to bring an urban conference here from our national church and we’re going to launch the Presiding Bishops Urban Initiative, and that national conference is going to be held right here in Richmond,” said Bishop J.W. Macklin, a leader within the Pentecostal system that encompasses New Gethsemane. “We’re coming back here and we plan to see this continue. And I believe this city is going to turn around.”
Many residents and civic leaders quietly acknowledge that a faith-based push to restore peace on the streets may be increasingly important. Homicides spiked dramatically in 2009 over the year before, and local public safety, recreation and education budgets are forecast to continue to be tight following two consecutive years of budget cuts.
“The place where we can make the biggest gains and the biggest difference in preventing and reducing crime is with the residents of the neighborhoods,” said Richmond Police Captain Allwyn Brown, who looked on during the rally at City Hall. “This shows me that people are ready to step up and take an active roll in making things get better. The people, in the crime prevention puzzle, are the most important piece.”
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