LONG BEACH, Calif. (FinalCall.com) – On the evening of Nov. 7, an ethnically and religiously diverse coalition of men planted themselves side-by-side along a one-mile stretch of 7th Street in their seaside community, vowing that crime and mayhem would cease to exist in their neighborhood.
“To me, it’s such a simple thought, almost an insignificant statement, but it became so powerful and transcended everything we could imagine,” stated Pastor Gregory Sanders, the Mile of Men convener and Pastor of The Rock Christian Fellowship Church.
The Mile grew out of a necessity, he said, to put all would-be criminals on notice that, if they intend to wreak havoc on innocent women, children and families, they will have to penetrate a visible, strong mile-long wall of men to do so.
“The objective was to find a common denominator and ground, that crosses diversity, doctrines, denominations–that is our passion for the security and safety for our families. And because of that, it’s a perfect bridge between all of the faith-based groups and the community at large,” Pastor Sanders continued.
The demonstration fell on the heels of the Long Beach Police Department’s drug raids and arrests of local dealers, as well as a motion, brought by 6th District Councilwoman Laura Richardson, to adopt a citywide taskforce to combat gang violence.
She said that an ultimate resolve to curbing violence lies with prioritizing the entire community’s attention toward youth development. The Mile, however, also focused on other criminal activities, such as sexual and physical assault against women, child abuse and robberies.
Pastor Sanders said community feedback has been tremendous. Black, White, Korean and Hispanic women came out of their homes with their own candles to stand with the men, while others posted “Welcome Mile of Men” signs in their windows.
Councilman Dennis Carrol, who represents the 4th District, also stood for the duration of the entire exhibition.
Twenty-year-old Dwayne Griffith, a member of The Rock, joined the candle-toting men, decked in white shirts and dark colored pants. He said the evening encouraged him to believe that the negative stigma and blame for nearly every social ill could be lifted from his generation.
Jason Muhammad, the Long Beach Study Group Coordinator for the Nation of Islam, joined the Mile, along with several other Muslim men. “I thank the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan for showing us through the Million Man March that we can all come together in unity and work together. And I thank Pastor Sanders for calling the men to account in our community, crossing all religious lines to begin to eradicate the problems that we have in them,” he said.
“It was so prolific. We couldn’t stop them. I’m encouraged that this will help fertilize and foster other visions and I really see next a Mile of Women,” he added.
The Mile’s next deployment is set for Dec. 20.