HAMILTON HEIGHTS – While tears, grimaces, rage, sad stories and photos of murder victims permeated the Move March for mourners on Saturday, attendees resolved to win the fight against gun-violence.
“We will win this fight,” said State Rep. Bruce Franks, followed by an emphatic drumbeat epiphany and good-spirited crowd eruption during a post-march rally at BFL Cultural Educational and Business Center.
“To these mothers – I am sorry, but I’m going to stand out here, I’m going to march, I’m going to allocate resources, I’m going to do whatever. We have to understand: we have to win, we will win, we must win,” Franks said in a call and response exchange.
Franks, who lost his younger brother to gun violence in 1991, said the crowd has two choices: we can crawl into a corner and not say nothing and lick our wounds; or we get in here and fight!
In a one-on-one with The NorthSider, Franks said the march up Page Blvd. from Aubert Ave. (behind the Old Sears Building) was therapeutic.
“It’s good to get with folks who have gone through the same thing and this is healing process too, outside of being an action step and coming together to see what we can do.”
Brandon Bosley, the 3rd Ward alderman who drew criticism last week for recommending the National Guard take a shot at fighting crime in the city, stuck to his guns regarding drastic options.
“I may have a lot of people pissed off at me right now, but I don’t care because I’m doing everything that it takes to assure that we start the conversations to save our people,” he said, nearly unapologetic.
“I apologize to anyone that feels aggravated by what I said, but I’m going to say it again: we need reinforcement — whether it’s the community, the Black Panther or the Navy Seal or every single person standing out here on every single corner in our streets.”
Better Family Life founding CEO Malik Ahmed, too, was staunch in his call for action, telling attendees to join an organization and create block units.
An organized community is a protected community, and an unorganized community is a vulnerable community, so please, join an organization, said Ahmed.
The BFL leader, whose community non-profit started the Move March, will offer information sessions on starting block units next week.
Ahmed also called for community and law enforcement accountability, admonishing that we must not be afraid to die.
“We are asking in the name of all of these children, adults and teenagers who have been murdered that you do something today…so we cannot be afraid to be shot, because we will be shot anyway if we stay silent, he said.
Patricia Newton, who is burying her son, Trayvon Richie, this week, knows the frustration of a silent community all too well. Her son, a mentor and “child of God,” was shot to death in an occupied south city park last week.
“He died on the mean streets of St. Louis…it was our African-American brothers.” Not only that, she said, “Black people and more were in the park, but no one wants to come out and say anything,” said, Newtown a multi-sports coach and mentor to black boys.
A lady in a wheelchair, who lost her son 5 years ago, said snitching isn’t a problem for her.
“Don ‘t kill somebody in front me – I’m telling,” she said, adding, that “the reason that they are getting away with it is because no one is saying nothing, so the next person feels like, ‘Oh, they got away with it, so I’m going to kill somebody, and I’m going to get away with it too.’”
Local on-air personality DJ Kutt said he was teaming up with BFL to start Stand Up St. Louis, a program that would offer protection for people who come forward in hopes of ridding fear of “snitching.”
“It’s going to take a lot of us,” said Jeanette Culpepper, founder of Families Advocating Safe Streets, that has been marching and holding annual vigils for nearly 30 years.
She started her organization following the death of her son.
Remembering marches years ago with BFL, she said her group and other would carry caskets with photos of young black boys on the side.
“And that’s what we’re still doing: we’re either locking them up, or we’re burying them.”