On the eve of America’s most historic presidential race, youth and adults, Black and Brown, Christians and Muslims all gathered together in a show of unity and solidarity. In partnership with Crenshaw High School, the Los Angeles Urban League hosted its 2nd Hands Around Crenshaw on November 1, 2008. This 2-hour gathering was an interfaith celebration for the students, parents, faculty, administration and the surrounding community of Crenshaw High School. It was also an opportunity to showcase the talent and skill of our youth.
In the early morning darkness, set-up for the day’s events began at 5:30 a.m. when Mr. Kidd and Ms. Eleanor of Crenshaw High School opened the gates of the campus. The spirit of God was already on the move as the threatening clouds across the sky rolled away. There was a spirit of reverence, joy and peace as program participants began to arrive. The nationally renowned Band Director of Crenshaw High School, Mr. Tarver, huddled his students together for one last tune-up before the program began.
The Crenshaw High School Color Guard set the stage for the program, followed by a warm welcome by school’s Principal Sheila Saunders, Student Body President Warren Jones and the Los Angeles Urban League’s own Charles Boyd. One of the community’s most beloved peacekeepers Minister Tony Muhammad then introduced the distinguished radio personality and the Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Guy Black of 102.3 KJLH.
In an act of spontaneous mentorship, Black invited the Student Body President to co-emcee the event. The pair worked together beautifully as they introduced Elder Charles Blake Jr., Pastor Adam Edgerly, Dr. Frederick Murph, Minister Tony Muhammad and Reverend Algie Rousseau. Each of the spiritual warriors prayed for the safety and protection of our youth. They also provided words of inspiration and encouragement as this country calls for local, national and global change. Blair Taylor, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, and one of the founding Board members of the Greater Crenshaw Educational Partnership (GCEP), introduced the other founding Board members Dr. Karen Gallagher of USC and Dr. Lewis King of the Tom & Ethel Bradley Foundation.
Crenshaw High School’s premier Marching Band and Dancers surprised audience members as they marched onto the field and performed several inspirational numbers. The gospel hip-hop rap group Asylumz provided high drama with their version of “Bless the Lord.” The young men of Gamma Shaw Gamma and young ladies of Phi Gamma Shaw, Crenshaw High School’s fraternity and sorority, reinforced the message “Stop the Violence, Increase the Peace” through their step show. Finally, the graceful young women of the Nation of Islam’s Divine Hands blessed the audience through their ministry of sign language and cultural dance to “We Shall Behold Him.”
The spirit-filled program culminated with students, families, faculty, faith leaders, and community members joining hands and encircling the football field. The legendary Reverend Cecil L. “Chip” Murray, of USC’s School of Religion delivered uplifting pearls of wisdom. Murray stated, “It was a glorious day. Not only will students grow and expand their dreams, but their parents and neighbors will as well.” Father Richard Martini of Transfiguration Church provided the closing prayer by asking for peace and prosperity for our youth and our nation.
All in attendance were blessed by the day. Ms. Rita Hall, Alumna of Crenshaw High School’s first graduating class of 1969 stated, “It was an excellent program. I was proud to come home. I will continue to work with and support our current students and faculty, and I encourage all alumni to do the same.” Minister Tony Muhammad declared, “It was one of the most spiritual events I’ve ever seen since I’ve been in Los Angeles. The spirit of the day was divine. To see our youth showcased in such a way was a blessing from God.” Pamela Bakewell, Chief Neighborhood Officer of the Neighborhoods@Work Initiative, said “This event was more than we could have ever imagined it to be. The spirit on the field was overwhelmingly serene. There was an angelic halo that came over our circle of hands.”