Third annual Cease Fire Breakfast moves gangs toward path of atonement
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – The Third Annual Cease Fire Breakfast convened May 12 at Bethel A.M.E. Church evidenced what some people doubt, but what others know, live, work and sacrifice for: Peace is on the horizon.
Clergy, community activists, reformed gang members and mothers of murdered children joined the more than 25 representatives of the Crips and Blood street gangs for the forum titled, “It’s Over: The War We Fought is the War We Lost. Cease Fire Now!”
Tommy Walker of Venice 2000, Community Call to Action and Accountability moderated the breakfast, which included networking, prayer, a history of the Cease Fire movement by Barefoot Pookey, special addresses by Minister Tony Muhammad, Western Region Representative for the Nation of Islam (NOI), Pastor Lewis E. Logan II, of Bethel A.M.E. Church, Pete of Unity Two and the Cease Fire Steering Committee, and Bishop Edward Turner, a sponsor for the event.
Three years ago, many of the attendees, filled with hope and commitment, could not have occupied the same space and time, absent mayhem. Through the efforts of the Los Angeles H.E.L.P.E.R. (Help Establish Learning, Peace, Economics and Righteousness) Alliance Cease Fire Committee, and the host neighborhood–Eight-Tray Gangsters–they slowly began a dialogue, which led to stand downs, relationships and collaborations.
The H.E.L.P.E.R. Alliance is a coalition of intervention and prevention groups which was initially established to allow various Crips gangs to meet and discuss their internal warring. They have met every Wednesday evening at Bethel A.M.E. Church since the wrongful execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, a reformed Crip, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, children’s author and peacemaker.
The Rolling 40s Westside Crips were awarded for their stand-downs and work toward peace with four other street gangs. Scoobey da Pharaoh, their spokesman, shared the honor with other communities that partnered with them to make the change possible. They were the Harlem Crips (ceased fire in 2005, with no killings between the two groups); the Rolling 20s Bloods, the East Coast Crips and the East Side Four-Tray Gangsters (established in 2006).
The Rolling 40s is finalizing a mutual agreement with the Jungle Stones to create the first official safe zone around the L.A. Unified School District that has been established by local street gangs themselves.
“The struggle for peace is not something unexpected. Of course, you have all the ridicules and hurdles you have to get over in making a community change or positive change, but the most hardest thing in intervention is politics, however, with open communication, anything is possible,” he said.
Not all of the gang sets are on the brink of peace, but, they are watching and some are getting close. According to Stan Muhammad, NOI Western Region Gang Intervention Coordinator and co-founder and executive director of Venice 2000, a minimum of 15 gangs have adopted the Cease Fire Agreement, up from seven last year. “We’ve got a long way to go, and we’re targeting more than 100 gangs, because there are a lot of different factions. You have the general gang, and within that, different groups like Venice Shoreline Crips, Baby Insane Crips and Tiny Insanes, and it’s like this in every neighborhood,” he said.
Gang sets that adopt the Cease Fire Agreement, which can be modified to adapt to each neighborhood, pledge to begin civic organizing within their communities; maintain open lines of communications with rival neighborhoods they are in cease fires with to head off potential flare ups; and create a better reality for the youth in their neighborhood.
Sistah Soldier of Watts, a peacemaker, who recently lost her two sons to violence–one in a drive by shooting and the other, an alleged suicide while in police custody–applauded the men and the movement.
“I wish we would have [had] this in August when my first son was killed … I feel sad and I’m happy at the same time, and we need to have these three times a month, not a year. These are the shot callers. They can stop so much, and I would like to see the women get involved and support our men, because this is the first time I’ve come inside a church without going to a funeral, and it feels so good,” she added, tearfully.
Pete said that gangs need to resolve to fix the problem they started.
“Can we honestly ask someone else to fix this for us? Go back and holla’–Let the kids go to the market; let them go to school. Can we leave something that we don’t touch indirectly that’s [causing] death to our people?
“You don’t have to kill each other to protect your neighborhood…we have the power of thought over these youngsters. They do as we’ve done; now, if we redo this, then that’s what they’ll be doing across this country,” Pete said.
Min. Muhammad said that gang unity kills strife, and encouraged, “You and I must unite and get under some divine leadership, because without God, we don’t have anything.” He also admonished the clergy to be careful of condemning gang members to hell, stating, “Make your hood fall in love with you…become protectors of your hood.”
Pastor Logan saluted the men because they recognized that they must cease firing, and start “blazing.”
“We’ve got to move beyond what we stop and move, to the point of what we start and initiate, because once we get the body count [and] watch the blood washed off the streets, the memorial site candles lessen–that’s where reconstruction begins,” he said.
Bishop Turner told the gatherers that they are the gods of the earth who have a true enemy that is concerned about them coming together.
“I’m praying along with the rest of us that not another one of our Brothers die at the hands of a Brother, and that we stand together in this last hour and we declare unity,” he stated.
(For more information on the Cease Fire Agreement or the H.E.L.P.E.R. Alliance, call (310) 925-2071, email [email protected], or write: P.O. Box 2541, Venice, CA 90291.)