With the safety of children in mind, marchers walk in unity against gun violence. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Goodwill is akin to a natural stream in that both will find a way to maneuver beyond impediments, with the key being an inner resolve.

Marchers in the city’s second Community Walk Against Gun Violence demonstrated that on Saturday morning by completing what they set out to do amid intermittent sprinkling of rain.

The first such event brought Memphis residents together in a downtown walk. This latest walk started in the parking lot of Hillcrest High School in Whitehaven.

Stevie Moore of  Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives (FFUN), along with the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, promised at the last march that the walks would be set in various communities throughout the city to raise awareness against a devastating problem.

“This unity walk, I see it growing more powerful with each event,” said Moore. “Our voices are loud and strong when we come together in the numbers that we’re seeing. The involvement of our young people is so beautiful to see. We’re building a collaborative of organizations and law enforcement we believe will make a great impact.”

Law enforcement and survivors, teens and parents, activists and advocates – about 500 of them according to several estimates – all walked together in a flow of unity that Moore said reflects the “sense of community we must build again.”

Moore, who lost his son to gun violence, offered remarks following the event.

“Last year was a record-setting year for homicides: 332.  And this year, we’re barely through February and, already, there are more than 30. Many of these victims were children, caught in a street war zone of gang violence and the exchange of fire. This has to stop. We must take a stand.”

Stevie Moore knows the pain of gun violence on a personal level. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Officer Riquel Jefferson, head of  the Memphis Police Department’s Neighborhood Watch and other community outreach programs, said the walks are important and meaningful.

“There has been a tremendous breakdown of trust between the community and law enforcement,” said Jefferson.

“We realize that trust between us must be rebuilt. There were many of us out here to stand with the community in this effort. Many were not in uniform. I was not in uniform, but I stand with Memphians against gun violence. After all, we are parents and grandparents as well.”

Jefferson commended Col. Mickey Williams, who heads the MPD Raines Road precinct.

“We had chiefs and commanders out walking today,” Jefferson said later  Saturday evening. “Our teens being mentored, ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ we call them, came out to also stand with the community. We are proud that they are making their voices heard. Just a call from a parent or grandparent got us involved in working with these young people.”

Erika Kelley: “Our family lost Dontae Bernard Johnson, my son. … I am Dontae’s voice. Gun violence must stop.” (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Erika Kelley, a leading spokesperson for Memphis Moms Demand Action, was also there to walk participants. Kelley lost her son to gun violence.

“As a resident of Frayser, I have seen Memphis experience many changes,” said Kelley. “This rise in gun violence is something we must get a handle on. Mounting gun violence has shaken our city to its core.

“Many families have been touched by these many tragedies. Our family lost Dontae Bernard Johnson, my son. I am an advocate. I am Dontae’s voice. Gun violence must stop.”

Gun violence, she said, is as much a public health crisis as COVID-19. More marches are expected over the course of the year.

Moore’s phone started ringing Saturday morning. Would-be participants wanted to know if the walk was being cancelled because of the rain.

“When I’m asked about the rain, I always tell them, ‘They don’t stop shooting because it’s raining. We’re going to walk.’

“And that’s exactly what we did.”

Gallery – (Photos by Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)