March against violence ends with candidate’s forum
By Derek Joy
Much of the neighborhood was still asleep when the march began at Miami Northwestern High School last Saturday morning.
Rev. Billy Strange, pastor of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, was joined with the pastors of several other area churches and more than 100 marchers, who walked through the area that has been rocked by a spate of recent shootings.
Strange started the march with the hymn “Trouble In My Way” in front of the school and proceeded west to northwest 15th Avenue, south to 65th Street, east to 13th Avenue, south to 62nd Street, and back east to 11th Avenue, where it ended at Mt. Calvary.
Along the way, pastors took turns offering prayer. Rev. Dr. Gaston Smith, pastor of Friend-ship M.B. Church, which recently lost some $30,000 in instruments and equipment to burglars who vandalized the building and a van, New Providence M,B. Church Pastor, Rev. Dr. Steven Caldwell, Rev. Dr. James Bush, III, associate pastor of Antioch M.B. Church of Brownsville, in addition to others.
“We organized this because of all the senseless killings, homicides in the community. We want to bring awareness to the problems,” said Rev. Strange.
“I got tired of doing so many funerals in the community, funerals for my members. It’s another segment of what we started in 2012, our CAP (Call A Pastor) Program.”
Strange said he was getting a lot of complaints from youths who were frustrated because nobody listened to their concerns. The result was the formation of CAP so kids could call a pastor rather than turn to violence.
“Everybody has a role to play,” said City of Miami District 5 Commissioner Keon Hardemon. “My role is to bring resources to the District. What this community really needs is economic development to make it more vibrant. We want the simple things that other communities have. But we have to fight for it tooth and nail.”
Violence isn’t new to this Liberty City neighborhood.
Pastor Kenneth Johnson was shot and killed while being robbed of a chain earlier this month. Just west of that 62nd Street location, two people were shot and killed only weeks be-fore that, which followed a shooting at northwest 12th Avenue and 66th Street where two people were killed and seven others were wounded.
Johnson was returning home after helping a member of his church get his car started. Two youthful gunmen, who have since been arrested, wanted the imitation gold chain Johnson wore around his neck. They shot and killed Johnson.
“We need to come together more often than with situations like this,” said Miami Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestine, who appeared on the candidate’s forum that was moderated by WPLG/Local 10 political reporter Glenna Milberg.
Monestine’s opponent, former District 2 Commissioner Dorin Rolle, participated in the march but did not stay for the forum.
“We need to be more proactive, not reactive. That means coming to commission meeting and budget hearings. The situation, the condition of our community is in didn’t get this way overnight. It’s been this way for 30, 40 years.
“What we need to do is provide people with an alternative to having guns in their hands. We need to create jobs and parents need to be parents again,” Monestine said.
Candidates for State House District 108, currently held by Rep., Daphne Campbell, who was absent, fielded questions from Milberg and the audience. Taj Echols, Michael Hepburn and Cedric Saintil, Jr., are vying to unseat Campbell.
A number of judicial candidates and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich, who is waging an uphill battle against former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who did not appear, rounded out the field of candidates.
“The key is awareness and education,” said Rev. Strange. “The march was to heightened awareness and the forum is to educate the voters.”
Citing passage from the Book of Isaiah, Bush said: “The Prophet Isaiah said, ‘Any time you attack the enemy’s territory with God, you automatically make an impact. The word goes forth and it will return to us because it will hit its intended target’.”
State Senator Dwight Bullard, Dem., District 39, offered a succinct bit of perception when he said: “It’s an energy of change here. And we want everybody to be committed to that.”