The solution to gun violence is not the march held last Saturday in Westwood. Those who organized it and others who answered their call know that. The march is a means to the end.
The 2nd Annual Love and Peace Unity Walk was powered by The Concerned Citizens of Westwood. The group was joined by myriad others, notably Stevie Moore Sr. of Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives (F.F.U.N.) “Stop the Killing.”
The Rev. Melvin Watkins, pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood, was centerstage.
“The reason why we did the walk was because there has not been any difference as it relates to gun violence (since last year’s march). So, we are going to keep walking, raising awareness until we see a difference. …
“We have children losing their lives. We don’t have responsible gun laws. We have irresponsible gun owners. We want to raise that awareness. Not just gun violence, all types of gun violence, but particularly that.”
Talking to The New Tri-State Defender after the walk, Watkins said, “We have a real problem in our community with conflict resolution. We snap off, a sense of rage. Because all those things still exist, we’re going to keep on walking for love, unity and peace just to get the message out.”
Preaching that message from the pulpit or talking about it on the telephone is not enough, he said, also stressing the need to set the record straight that “our people are not angry and violent people …. This is something that is happening in our neighborhoods …This is an opportunity to come and say we are declaring our communities to be a safe place. We’re not afraid to walk in our own neighborhoods.”
Watkins noted that the event drew various communities of faith, along with politicians and people who joined in from the neighborhood.
“We all came out under the same banner of love, peace; stop the hate; stop the violence.”
All, said Watkins, “are trying to communicate the same thing.” He noted parenting, the driving force of poverty and learning to set proper priorities.
“We have to talk about a lot of things. … It has to be a planned process. We won’t organically strategize and come to the table with real solutions. If we are serious about making a difference in this area, then we have to be intentional about coming to the table.”
For Moore, there was a discernible difference between this event and last year’s.
“I think we saw more youth come out. I’m pushing youth. Youth can get to our people who are doing the shooting better than we can. …
“If I say ‘stop the killing’ and one of them says ‘stop the killing’ it means more than me. That’s their generation.”
Moore wants to see more movement before shootings happen and he stresses the critical importance of getting beyond safe-havens and out into the neighborhoods.
While he has been advocating for such since his son was killed 19 years ago, Moore, a former convict, said, “This year I am pushing let’s go to God more …. My late pastor … told me something, she said, ‘Boy if you worked half as hard for Jesus as you do the devil, you would be one hell of a warrior.’ I’ve been working that since then ….
“Our children ain’t never been introduced to Jesus. …the people who are committing the crimes don’t go to church. They get put out of school early.”
Moore said he has come “come to the realization of one thing: I don’t have the answer. ’Cause if I had the answer, I would have stopped the killing 19 years ago when my son got killed.
“But I’m saying I can’t stop searching for the answer. That’s why I walk, I rally. … hoping to find the answer.”