Special to South Florida Times
In yet another effort aimed at curtailing violence and criminal activity, several pastors in the Liberty City area have announced an initiative they hope will make the community a less dangerous place.
The clergy present said they will take an approach that focuses on the three “P’s” – police, pastors and parents.
The campaign will kick off with a day of fasting and praying starting at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30, ending with a revival at the Simonoff Floral Park, 1850 NW 54th St. in Miami.
“Recently, the Lord placed a very simple vision and plan in my heart to share with the community and to also have the endorsement of these pastors to make this vision a reality,” said the Rev. Carl Johnson, who, with Miami City Commissioner the Rev. Richard Dunn, started the effort.
“As you know, there is a major fear and trepidation going on in the city of Miami. It’s uncalled for and is unwelcoming. Therefore, the Lord has led the clergy to come together to stand boldly about what we’re going to do to help curtail the crime,” said Johnson, pastor of the 93rd Street Baptist Church.
The Rev. Gaston Smith, pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, also helped launch the program which is coming on the heels of a shooting on Aug. 24 outside of a Liberty City laundromat that claimed the lives of two men and wounded three others.
Prior to that incident, Liberty City, Little Haiti and Overtown experienced several shootings in two months, including the wounding of a 23-month-old child who suffered a bullet wound on her foot from a drive-by shooting in the Liberty Square housing complex.
Also, police officers shot and killed Joeell Lee Johnson, 16; Tarnorris Tyrell Gaye, 19; Gibson Junior Belizaire, 21; and DeCarlos Moore, 36.
Smith, a member of the Baptist Minister’s Council, announced crime statistics from a report that he said he got from the Medical Examiner’s Office Wednesday morning.
“From Jan. 1, 2010, 154 homicides have taken place in Miami-Dade County and, of those, 22 [victims] were under 18 years old,” said Smith.
“We suggest that recovery starts with confession and we confess that in order to meet the needs of this community we need the ministers not only in the pulpit but in the streets, the park and the community,” Smith said. “We are joining up with other pastors and other leaders throughout the community to make sure we are proactive rather than reactive. “
Johnson himself launched a “Reviving Our Community” outreach in the wake of the recent killings because, he said, God gave him a vision to “revive” the efforts he made 10 years earlier. He began on Northwest 15th Avenue, where his church is located, conducting outreach, revivals and baptisms.
Other community leaders at the meeting included Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, a former state representative; Nathaniel Wilcox and Pastor Anthony Tate of People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE); Jose Hernandez, of the Miami-Dade County Department of Corrections; Jacques Despinosse, of the Haitian American Leadership Coalition; the Rev. Douglas Cook, pastor of Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church; the Rev. Larry Lovett, of Antioch Baptist Church; and the Rev. Johnny Barber, pastor of Mount Sinai Baptist Church.
They and others turned out to support the “Revival” initiative.
“There are two things that we do as clergy and we’re really passionate to this: We baptize and we bury,” said Smith. “We want to do more baptizing and less burying because we don’t like to spend our weekend burying our children.”
As part of the campaign, Dunn will arrange with the Miami police department to pick up a member of the clergy at least once a week to ride officers through high-crime areas.
The pastors will then go to the streets and speak to parents about their concerns and offer assistance.
“We do not need more killing in Miami.” Johnson said.
And, in a rebuke to officers who shoot suspects, he said alleged offenders “don’t need to be killed, they need to be caught.”
“The police must do their job. We’re not anti-police; we need law enforcement to have what we call righteousness and law-abiding citizens. But [suspects] need to be caught by the law for correction and caught by the Lord’s servant for affection. The parents and the pastors will bring the affection to show them that we care and to stop the killing.”
Liberty City resident Barbara Mathis said she enthusiastically supported the clergy’s effort and would work with them to conduct street evangelism door-to-door to curb the violence.
Mathis, a member of the 93rd Street Baptist Church, said as a parent whose five children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren are residents of Liberty City, the community needs to get back to the “old days” of teaching children what she called the spiritual ways of sharing and loving.
“This mission starts at home and spreads across. We have to teach them the way of the Lord,” said Mathis.
“Back in the day, our grandparents used to teach us the way, the truth and the light of God. But the younger generation has strayed from that. We need them to go back to teaching these kids how to work and love, to refuse to be followers and how to be leaders. And I will do my very best because I know as a single parent that it truly takes a village to raise a child.”
For more information on the “Reviving Our Community” campaign, call commissioner Dunn’s office, 305-250-5390.
Brandyss Howard may be reached at Brandyss@msn.com.