Afterwards, people were given an opportunity to come to the mic and share their thoughts and comments. Many shared either personal stories of their first hand experiences with gang violence, being victims of crime, some shared their testimonies of being in the gang, even ex gang leaders came forward to share their stories.
I am so thankful that Dr. Allen took the initiative to bringing the people together to have an open forum to have eye-opening conversations and empower people to speak out, reminding them that they have a voice. That is the best thing that I took away from this evening’s gathering, and for what it’s worth - I believe that was his vision and the main idea behind The Peace Rally. However, I must admit, I was hoping for more.
It was a mixture of frustration and a bit of disappointment for me. The reason being is that with the momentum that was created in the room, I believe the rally did not provide the followup on how to carry out this vision further, which is why I am hoping that this was only an introductory Peace Rally gathering. The main motivation for the assembling of the rally, I believe, was due to the mindless and heartless killings, robberies and rapes that began to happen in the areas that caught people’s attention, such as Blair. “If this can happen in the crime watch area such as Blair, it can happen anywhere”, someone pointed out.
When I first heard of the murder of Andrew Cartwright (may he rest in peace and may the Lord continue to comfort the family!) I was talking to a friend who lives across the street, then a friend of a friend who lives next door and heard everything that happened and even witnessed the crime scene. They were in such shock that they described their experience "as if this was happening in some movie rather than to them". As I was hearing these stories I was seriously considered to invest in a gun since I live around the corner. That was also the moment when I started to thinking of moving to the west, hoping it would be safer. All these thoughts came and suddenly I realised what was happening. Isn’t that what our flesh does? Isn’t that our initial intuitive reaction - to flee and find safety for self and family? The truth that Jesus spoke about is so evident - we increasingly becoming lovers of self. We tend to want to run away, buy a gun get behind the wall of a gated community and hope that it does not happen to us. "It’s ok as long as it’s not me”, "Out of sight out of mind" mentality. We are hoping to close our eyes for a moment and hang on to the threads of the feeling of safety, never actually thinking of the solution. But it is not going away and the problem is climbing over the walls, we cannot ignore it any more.
That first instinct was quickly replaced with personal rebuke and then with righteous anger, which was the drive behind me showing up at the rally tonight. I believe people came for one of three reasons: either because (like me) they are fed up with allowing this to go on and also feel that righteous anger, secondly, they are feeling helpless and want to know what everyone else is prepared to do to bring justice, or thirdly, they have been in the crime field as a part of the solution and hoped to see some proactive movement happen from within the community. The latter are all too familiar with the problem and got very quickly discouraged and frustrated when the meeting became just another exchange of stories and a battle between what was better, prayer-or-action-debate.
What I was hoping to get more out of the Peace Rally can be summarised in the following points:
- The most powerful thing that can be done is acknowledging that we are as much a part of the solution as we are a part of the problem. Carlos Read pointed out the famous quote that “in order to get a different result, we need to do start doing things differently”. I wish that he stayed and shared more on what exactly that meant in practical terms for the type of audience that gathered there tonight.
- I was hoping that the focus of the meeting would have been geared towards presenting an opportunity for people to come up with some strategies that could be written down for further review and some type of followup would have been established. (even if it was volunteer based and volunteers recruited on the spot).
- With the awesome turn out it would have been great to have all persons leave their contacts or for leaders from the panel to leave their contacts and specific information, such as where and how persons can come alongside various programs, organisations and initiatives that are already in place.
- The Rally would have a greater and lasting impact if it was made clear that although we do not have all the answers and all the solutions, this will be one of many Rallies and the goals and mission/objectives were clearly outlined at the very beginning as to why we were there and what is ultimately being accomplished.
- The main goal and purpose for the first Peace Rally, in my opinion, should have been bringing people to an understanding, putting everyone on one page and sparking up a Clear, Single-Mindedness in the way of thinking in such a way, that each person would want to take the conversation to their homes, their immediate groups and communities. That is the only way the change will come about.
There was so much truth spoken tonight, the only thing was missing is the conclusion and call to action. I love that the story of Rhode Island, NY was mentioned and the way Mayor Giuliani transformed the community which was plagued by crime, prostitution and drug trade in just two years in office by implementing some radical changes and investing in education and “civility” campaigns. He was truly a radical leader, and in that sense - the support of our government will be crucial! What will it take to stop this?
These ARE the last days and we are NOT fighting against flesh and blood. The people of God must RISE UP NOW and stop waiting on the government to provide the solution. Together as a community we have the power and we can influence the government! We need to come together and implement what the Word teaches us for it is our Weapon and it is stronger that any other. We cannot compromise now and remain lukewarm, we must take it by force and we will only be able to do this when we first become obedient to loving one another and coming together as ONE! Together we are powerful and our unity brings glory to God who blesses those who obey His commandments. We are many parts, but we are still one body. There is much that we can do and it does not have to be a debate: some can pray, others with connections can approach the government, doe can give, yet others can go into the community and walk about, building relationships with the young and old who need to feel love. What we need is to pray and then to be empowered and motivated to step out in faith!
Whatever it is that each is equipped with - pour that into the vision of being the Ambassador for Peace! Tonight I saw the power that we can have if we truly come together with one mind and One Spirit, it was a beginning!