Community leaders came together for an emergency meeting and press conference at the Los Angeles Sentinel and L.A. Watts Times newspapers on September 2. The Safe Communities Initiatives Rally called the meeting, in response to an increase in gang violence and killings taking place in south Los Angeles and neighboring communities. The leaders, who came from communities like Crenshaw, Watts and East Los Angeles and who work with youth involved with gangs, gun violence and drugs, took charge of the conference.
“The purpose of this particular movement is to bring all of the organizations together in the Los Angeles region to rehash the issue on what needs to be done on the escalating violence taking place in the 8th and the 9th district of Los Angeles,” said Khalid Shah with the Stop the Violence Foundation who was instrumental in bringing all parties together for the meeting.
“The purpose really is to revisit some of the old strategies, to revisit some of the things that have worked, some of the things that have not worked to bring that to the attention of our local and state and federal officials because of the incredible increase in violence in the last year.”
The key conveners of the 2015 March and Rally for Peace in the Streets are Khalid Shah, Aquil Basheer with Professional Community Intervention Training Institute, Andre Christian with Watch Vision Grow Into A U-Turn Foundation and Danny J. Bakewell, Sr, Executive Publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper and the L.A. Watts Times Newspaper.
“When people start setting a goal of 100 deaths in 100 days, that’s senseless because they’re killing themselves, they’re killing our children, they’re killing our mothers our fathers, they’re killing our future,” said Bakewell. “We have to intervene and do something to change the tide, and nobody can do that but us. If Black lives matter, Black lives must matter to Black people first.”
Other key notables working alongside Shah are Shah’s brother Naim Shah with the Islamic Masjids and Centers, Jitu Sidki, with the Black Awareness Development Organization, Dr. Cynthia Mendenhall better known as Sister Soldier who is one of the founders of the Watts Gang Task Force, T Rodgers, William Welch with the Inland Empire Stop the Violence Foundation, Umar Hakim, Terrance Stone with the San Bernardino Gang and Intervention Task Force and Vicki Lindsey with Cease Fire and Project Cry No More.
“You brought back the originals, the people who have the right and the license to operate,” said Mendenhall. “The problem is that the community left the community. We have to come back, the moms the pops the grandparents, we have to come back.”
Within the next eight weeks, thousands will march through gang-related parks, including Jim Gilliam, St. Andrews, Athens, South, Jesse Owens, Magic Johnson, Manchester and Ted Watkins. The Nation of Islam, Gangsters for Christ, Front Line Soldiers, along with many more, will all be a part of the 2015 March and Rally for Peace in the Streets.
“The next step is to go into the communities most affected by the violence,” said Khalid Shah. “Like our first stop is going to be in the Rollin 100’s in Jesse Owens Park. We’ve actually already communicated with the young brothers who are part of the street organizations or what they call gangs; they are going to be marching with us. We’ve already talked to them and they are going to be part of this process. We are letting them know we are here for them, not against them but at the same time the killing has to stop.
“What’s going to happen is we are actually going to start at Jesse Owens Park on September 13 at 11a.m. The march and rally will go up, south on Western Ave. down to 111th street. We are going to be interfacing in the community along the way passing out flyers and information about where people can receive assistance and help from organizations that are dealing with the issues of violence. And then we are going to cross the street, come back down Western toward Manchester, loop back around and come back to the park. We are anticipating having a rally just to energize people for the next march.
“Ultimately, we want to culminate into one large march at the end so that our city, county, state and federal officials can understand that the people are tired, the people need some resolution. And this is important; resolution doesn’t mean locking up our children indiscriminately. What it does mean is most of these areas are depressed. Them youngsters need some jobs. Them youngsters need something to do. They are social wastelands and they are trying to find themselves.
“That’s important. That engagement doesn’t mean were looking to lock up our youth…. We are looking for other positive things in the community they can feel part of. We are going to be working with LAPD and the Sherriff’s Department so we can build better relations between local law enforcement officials and young people in the community who traditionally don’t trust them. So the process is going to be holistic and it’s going to be focused but it’s going to be a process. And at the end of the day, we want thousands to ultimately come together in the city of Los Angeles and I am calling on my relationships with hundreds of agencies around the region, San Bernadino, Riverside and sites in between to join us to make it happen.”
To get involved, call (323) 777-4893