After two young men were shot to death in Wadesboro last Monday, a result of gang violence, the African-American community responded Sunday afternoon with a march and rally led by the North Carolina NAACP.
The march began at the Head Start building on U.S. 74/Salisbury Street and continued down the street, past the scene of the murders, to the Lockhart-Taylor Center on Washington Street. N.C. NAACP vice president and past president Rev. Curtis Gatewood led the estimated 200-person march, shouting chants such as “Stop the Violence! Stop the Silence!” and “Clean up the Streets! Increase the Peace!”
“We are not going to submit to the killing of our children,” Gatewood told the marchers.
Following the march, which added up to a little over a mile, the NAACP hosted a rally at the Lockhart-Taylor Center. “Parents,” HOLLA! CEO Leon Gatewood said, “we really need to get our children into activities. We have to lead our children to do what’s right.”
Those who are part of organizations that help kids or adults were asked to say a few words. Alex Gaddy, who’s also part of the HOLLA! organization, said he grew up in the Salisbury Street area and still lives there today. “The neighborhood where all this turmoil is happening was once prestigious,” he said. “We are losing that. In neighborhoods, no matter whether you’re in Wadesboro or Lilesville or wherever, you see kids in the street when school is in session. Ask them why. Give them food to eat or a bath or whatever they need.”
Priscilla Nunn and her sister, Rochelle Streater, spoke about the ACCESS program, which helps train individuals for careers and life as adults, no matter their past. “A lot of people think young people don’t want to do anything,” Nunn said. “ACCESS has proven that’s not true.”
Other organizations represented include New Horizon, which aims to catch youngsters at an early age and teach them to love themselves; BLOCK, a program that helps empower youth; a semi-pro football league that’s in the works; Las Amigas, which teaches young ladies pride and respect; and the Circles group, which aims to bring Anson County out of poverty; VFW Post 10403; Eastern Star Masons.
Rev. Gatewood spoke next, calling on the Anson County community to “turn a moment of grief into a movement of greatness.”
“We must not allow these young men to die in vain,” he said.
He introduced N.C. NAACP president Rev. Dr. William Barber, who started off his speech by recognizing the family of Marcus Allen, who were in attendance and marched wearing T-shirts in memory of Allen. “I’m tired of burying people whose birth date and death date are too close together,” Barber said. “We must stop the funerals.”
He pointed out that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed for the ultimate cause of freedom from oppression. “That’s worth dying for,” he said. “Dying trying to be bad is just foolishness. Some deaths just don’t make any sense.”
Barber pointed out that most homicides are usually black on black, white on white, Latino on Latino. “More than half of the nation’s homicide victims are black,” he said. “Yet, blacks make up only 13 percent of the population. Of those, 85 percent are men and mostly young men. We’re killing our potential. We’re killing our future.”
He also stated that the Ku Klux Klan killed 3,446 people over an 86-year period. “Black men kill about this number of black men every six months,” Barber said. “Something’s wrong when now the major threat to life is ourselves,” he added.
Barber proposed ten points to help solve the problem and end gang violence. First, he said, “We must stop the fascination and glorification of guns.” He added that reports say that the number of preschool-aged children killed by guns is twice the number of law enforcement officers killed by guns. “More guns is not the answer,” he said.
Number two, Barber suggested, is to teach young people how to resolve conflicts without violence. “You don’t have to destroy somebody because they took your ice cream,” he said.
Number three is to mentor to young people. Number four is to remove gangs from the community. Number five is to ensure spiritual and character-based training at an early age. For number six, Barber said, “We have to come out of the church and get into the street. Praying is fine but you’ve got to put legs on that prayer.”
Number seven, he said is to develop a gang banger/drug dealer ministry. Number eight, teach young men that if you want to stop something, you don’t have to stop someone else’s life. “A real man don’t need to pull a gun to feel like somebody.”
Number nine, celebrate those who are doing good. “When one person does wrong,” Barber said, “don’t blame the whole family. That’s what racists do.”
Tenth and finally, “Never lose hope,” Barber said. He pointed to the family of Marcus Allen. “If they can be here, everybody in Anson County ought to be here.”
With the two murders, Barber said, “They thought it’d make you stay in your houses but you marched in the streets. The hope for changing this community is those who have been changed.”
After Barber’s speech, Sheriff Tommy Allen said this movement has his 100 percent support. “Maybe we can raise some funds to kick this off,” he said.
Leon Gatewood said he and the HOLLA! organization hope to build a community center in Wadesboro, like the one already in place in Morven. “The movement starts today.”
Mary Allen, the mother of Marcus Allen, spoke last, rounding out the rally. “My family thank y’all for being here today,” she said. “Marcus was our baby… From November to now, we’ve had three deaths in our family. It’s time for this to stop.”