In response to a rash of noose hangings and hate crimes across the country, the Reverend Al Sharpton will lead a march around the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C. at noon today. Thousands of marchers are expected to convene in the nation's capitol to call for federal prosecution in these offenses and to protest the federal governmentís failure to intervene.
Sharpton will be joined by Martin Luther King III, radio hosts Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey and Warren Ballantine, as well as members of organizations such as the National Action Network and Realizing the Dream. Roland S. Martin, a Chicago radio host and ESSENCE's resident news blogger for The Roland Report, will also update us with posts from the event day and will broadcast his radio show from D.C.'s Freedom Plaza.
Friday's march comes on the heels of similar ones held in Jena, Louisiana, protesting the treatment of Black teens harshly convicted after a school fight, and Charleston, West Virginia, demanding hate crime charges against the captors of a Black woman who was tortured.
Other perceived injustices have also prompted recent rallies as members of the public and community leaders voice their concerns over problems in their areas. Last month, for example, thousands of Black men in Philadelphia rallied to curb the soaring violence in their communities.
With more than 320 murders in the city already this year, mostly involving young African American men and handguns, Philadelphia Police Chief Sylvester Johnson and civic leaders called on 10,000 Black male volunteers to patrol the streets and keep the peace. The men powerfully responded to the call, lining up for several blocks to register, the atmosphere rife with passion and determination.
Volunteers in the effort, billed A Call to Action: 10,000 Men, It's a New Day, will not carry weapons or make arrests, but will receive conflict resolution training before deployment into high-crime areas, it was announced at a recent kick-off rally. Others will establish community youth groups as part of the campaign. Here are a few voices from the streets of the kick-off rally:
Adbul-Zahir Falah, 50
I think people are fed up, tired of lying back in the safety zone like they say. They are ready to stand up and go back to our original roles, being the protectors and providers of our community.
Elijah Douglass, 16
There are a lot of people out there who know one person whoís been shot, and itís taken a toll on them; they want to get revenge. Itís going to go back and forth until we put a stop to it.
Shernese Woodbine, 30
I think itís a great opportunity for our men to realize the importance of how much we need them, and that the family isnít complete unless there is a man there to help shape the lives of our young boys. People say it might be chauvinistic that men can only be involved. When we called the organizers they didnít turn us away. They said, ëWhat are your talents? We can use you.í Their focus is on men, but in the community women are involved.
Eric Peterson, 39
I brought my son here, to show him that Black people can come together without using violence.
William Farlow, 54
There are a lot of skeptics. You just have to have a positive attitude, you just have to put forth what u can do and hope for the best. I think there will be a positive outcome.