MIAMI — Forty-five years after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, his message of peace lives on. In Liberty City, city officials, community leaders and residents recently hosted an array of peace events in the community, which often has been nationally spotlighted for its criminal activity.
The day’s events included a press conference on safety strategies, a school rally featuring a peace panel at Miami Northwestern Senior High School and the 10th Annual Reclaim the Dream Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. March and Candlelight Memorial Service on April 4, King’s assassination anniversary. Almost 400 people attended the events collectively.
During a press conference held by City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, at the Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park on the corner of Northwest 62nd Street and 12th Avenue, community leaders promoted the Stand Up Against Violence Alliance and urged everyone to get involved in implementing safety strategies for the community, particularly to stop youth violence.
“I believe and I know that this is a divine appointment. It is time for us to truly stand up. It’s time for us to set aside our petty differences. It is time for us to set aside our political agendas and our religious affiliations,” Spence-Jones said. “This is a wakeup call. These are our babies. These are our kids. This is our generation that is being lost. We have to do something.”
Spence-Jones also said she was tired of people simply talking and using strategies that have proven fruitless in saving our youth.
“I’m just all talked out. I’ve said all that I can say. Things are not going to change until we do something, until we say enough is enough. We have to stop doing the same thing over and over again.
Change starts with us,” she said.
Following the press conference, participants headed over to Miami Northwvestern for a school rally with more than 200 youths that included a panel discussion on peace and nonviolence.
During the program hosted by Ms. Kimmie of 99 Jamz, students submitted candid questions to a panel of community leaders including Thema Campbell of Girl Power, Judge Orlando Prescott, Samantha Quarterman, Sabine Edmond of Children’s Trust, Department of Juvenile Justice Director Morris Copeland, Officer Nannette Murray, Pastor Gaston Smith of Friendship M.B. Church, Pierre Rutledge of Stand Up Against Violence Alliance, and Luther Campbell, rapper, author and coach.
Students addressed issues such as not having enough safe, fun and engaging things to do on the weekend; how to escape violence when it’s all around you; how to cope with being a witness or victim of violence; and how to turn to adults and police who won’t listen to them or trust them.
At one point, after listening to the youths’ concerns, Thema Campbell said, "I’d like to apologize to you for all adults. I know what it’s like to speak to some adults and they won’t listen to you. I don’t even speak to certain adults because they don’t listen to me,” Campbell said. “But there are adults out there who will listen to you. You just have to find the right ones.”
The day concluded with the march and Candlelight Memorial Service. More than 100 people attended despite inclement weather, heard a stirring rendition of King’s famous ‘I Have a Dream” speech and enjoyed the program.
The day’s message was personal and hit close to home for Pastor Vernon Gullum, who lost his 22-year-old son and fought for his own life after they were shot in the driveway of their home. The experience prompted him to help start Call-A-Pastor, an organization comprised of clergy committed to stopping violence. "When I tell you you’re looking at a miracle, that’s not just a cliché because on Nov. 23, 2012, life for me and my family changed forever at about 8:30 p.m.,” Gullum said.
“So this is personal. So many times we make the mistake and we don’t get involved until it affects us, but we have to be ahead of the game.
Don’t wait until someone else has to sit on the front row.”