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Richmond IndyMedia Live! Every Tuesday, 12:30 - 1PM on 97.3 WRIR LP-FM, and streaming online from wrir.org!

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Richmond Youth for Social Justice March Against Violence on MLK Day

At 10am on Monday, January 17, 2005 the Calhoun Community Center's sidewalk was jammed with 30-40 people. The heavily bundled crowd braved the 25 degree temperature to march through Downtown Richmond's Gilpin court promoting non-violence. In the middle of the group stood two young men with a banner that read, "Stop the Violence. Sponsored by Youth for Social Justice."

Inez Thornton came to read a poem about youth violence. "Violence is the cry of an unheard voice. When a child has no one to listen to them, then they lash out. We see it every day in this city, black communities aren't being heard."
At 10am on Monday, January 17, 2005 the Calhoun Community Center's sidewalk was jammed with 30-40 people. The heavily bundled crowd braved the 25 degree temperature to march through Downtown Richmond's Gilpin court promoting non-violence. In the middle of the group stood two young men with a banner that read, "Stop the Violence. Sponsored by Youth for Social Justice."

Inez Thornton came to read a poem about youth violence. "Violence is the cry of an unheard voice. When a child has no one to listen to them, then they lash out. We see it every day in this city, black communities aren't being heard."

Wasting no time standing in the cold, after a few opening words spoken on a megaphone, the group stepped off the curb. Darrel, sponsor of Youth for Social Justice, announced that the march would stop at City Hall on Broad Street and then cross the street to a vigil against handgun violence on the Capitol grounds.

Winding through Gilpin Court, loud chants erupted from the marchers, "Stop the violence. Stop it now. Come on Gilpin Court!" One young marcher called out, "We need a beat." But the group's frosty cheeks and gloved hands could not respond. So they kept marching and chanting as they crossed the 1st Street bridge, turning east on Leigh Street.

Richmond had the country's fourth highest murder rate in 2003 with 94 killings. In 2004, the city saw 95 murders and was ranked the nation's ninth most dangerous city overall.

Eugene, a member of the Moors, a local activist group, said he was glad to be marching against violence on Martin Luther King Jr's birthday. "My group teaches people about their civic responsibilities. When you can't figure out how to get involved, that's what leads to violence."

Along the sides of the march, several members of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) handed out flyers that read, "Violence. Drugs. No Jobs. Police. Slum Lords. Tired of the way things are? Let's unify and organize. Please call 804-998-0194. The New Black Panther Party Richmond Chapter Wants You. www.newblackpanther.com"

Victoria Johnson marched representing Promised Land Ministries whose office is in Jackson Ward. "We have helped people find jobs, housing, and to get back on their feet. But we also need to stop these murders that happen in our neighborhoods."

Passing the Richmond Coliseum, many at the back of the march dreaded the only hill that the group had to climb. "This is a long march, but we're gonna make it," said one woman who has grown up in Gilpin Court. She later said that her grandson, has no father because of gun violence and that is why she chose to stand up and march.

At City Hall, the marchers huddled close together on the Broad Street sidewalk. Two young men held the banner while being interviewed for TV news. Third District City Councilman, Chris Hilbert came out of his office to stand with the group. Meanwhile, each organization sent someone to the megaphone to speak before moving on. Roderick Green and Earl Dandridge from the Richmond Chapter of Ruff Ryders spoke about need for safer streets and pledged the support of the urban music scene to the cause.

Rick Muhammed started a foundation to deal with the oppression that goes along with the concept of race. He challenged the crowd, "We have to deal with institutional racism. For us as a people to get anywhere, we have got to deal with institutional racism. They don’t want us to succeed and have our own institutions, but it's how you feel about yourself that determines who you are."

Lazarus, president of the NBPP, took a turn addressing the crowd. "The New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense has landed in Richmond. We are taking this long wonderful walk , just like Dr. King. Dr. King once said that violence is the voice of the unheard. So we are here to take a stand today. Richmond is getting ready to stand up. We are representing the black community properly. And to the City Councilmember who is here, we want to say to you, there's violence going on in the streets. The youths have nothing to do. We need more community centers, more afterschool programs, we need food, clothing, houses and shelters. We need jobs. We are here to make a demand that things change in the City of Richmond. And if they don't, you're gonna have an organization that is here representing the black community and our interests will be dealt with."

At Noon, the march crossed Broad Street and stopped between the General Assembly and the Virginia State Capital building. As the group gathered and spoke out loud pointing at the General Assembly building, State Police Officer Heilman interrupted, informing the crowd that their gathering was illegal. The Officer directed the group's leaders to the Bell Tower where the vigil against handgun violence was taking place.

Darrel announced to everyone that the area may be off limits, but they had already made their point and lead the group down the grassy hillside of the Capital grounds. By this point, most of the marchers had decided to start walking back to Gilpin Court, one and a half miles away. The small remaining group, lead by Mr. Muhammed, finished up with one last round of chants, "Save our children. Stop the killing. We can do it. It's up to us. Hear our voice! Stop institutional racism!"

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While trying to report on this event with frozen fingers and chicken-scratchings for notes, I invited marchers to check out this website. I welcome corrections to any oversights I've made, and there are many (names, organizations, background stories). If you were there, just fill in the comment form to help complete the story of today's march. If you have digital pictures of the march, please post them here or email them to me at jasonguard (at) riseup.net
 
 


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