Philly’s Black men answer the call to become peacekeepers in their communities
PHILADELPHIA (FinalCall.com) – Nearly 11,000 Black men answered the call to show up at Temple University’s Liacouras Center on Oct. 21 for “A Call to Action: 10,000 Men–It’s a New Day,” which helped start them on the path to becoming “peacekeepers” in a city that has seen too much bloodshed over the past decade.
Charles “Charlie Mack” Alston, hatched the idea for the Call to Action along with men such as Dennis Muhammad, Nick Reed, and Darryl Robinson, in the living room of his Delaware home. Since that day, many people had come aboard to make October 21, 2007 a day to remember.
“I cannot describe the feeling in my head, when I drove up to the Liacouras Center, and saw all those men in line as early as 9 a.m.–program didn’t start until noon–standing two deep in a line that went on for blocks,” Mr. Alston told the Final Call. “I know I felt the same way in 1995, when I looked out across the Capitol in Washington, D.C. and saw that sea of Black men, who had come for the Million Man March,” Mr. Alston admitted
“And just like that day in 1995, it was grassroots brothers who answered the call on Oct. 21, to atone, to stop the hemorrhaging in our community. We admitted that we had dropped the ball after 1995, but we had finally come together to set things right,” Mr. Alston said.
“What was my initial feeling seeing how many men showed up on [October] 21?” stated Kenny Gamble, chairman of the Philadelphia Millions More Movement, in response to a Final Call question. “The spirit of the Million Man March was alive and well,” that’s what I said to myself, Mr. Gamble replied.
“The MMM was our precedent–it just took this long to get it organized–to realize that we must come up to this universal level of thinking. No more excuses,” Mr. Gamble opined.
With the year 2007, coming to a close, more than 300 people have been murdered on the streets of Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth largest city, which has a population of 1.5 million (44 percent Black).
“Since 1990, there have been 2,889 murders in Philadelphia, and 1,906 of them were under [the age of] 34, and 44 percent of those killed were Black males,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson explained to The Final Call. “So, it’s time for [Black] men in this city to stand up,” he stressed.
Rodney Muhammad, the Delaware Valley Regional Representative of the Nation of Islam at Muhammad’s Mosque No. 12 in Philadelphia, said he was overjoyed that Mr. Gamble compared the gathering of “10,000” to the Historic gathering of nearly two million men at the Million Man March in 1995.
“I remember the Honorable Elijah Muhammad stating in his book, ‘Message to the Blackman in America,’ that there was a need to call Black scholars and professionals together to come up with a strategy to improve the condition of the Black man and woman in America.
“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, in his call for the Millions More Movement, stressed that no one organization had the answer to our problems–so, a call for 10,000 men in Philadelphia was placed–and they came,” Mr. Muhammad said, stating that Philadelphia has become a “lightning rod” for the nation, igniting a movement which can further inspire Black men to take responsibility for solving their own problems.
“Ten-thousand Black men have shown that solving the overwhelming problems of our community is doable,’ he added.
Abdur-Rahim Islam, a Philadelphia real estate developer, is an integral part of the grassroots alliance that bought into Mr. Alston’s vision to put peacekeepers into the streets. “We want to do three things,” he told the historic gathering, according to press reports. “We want to inspire, educate and instruct.” Mr. Islam told The Final Call that there was a goal of bringing 350 organizations under the “call for action” umbrella, which 1,000 have already joined.
“The key message to the organizations was you have to change the thinking on the ground, bring about a paradigm in our community from dependence on others to ‘do for self,’” Mr. Islam noted. “Violence is just the symptom which comes at us from our blighted neighborhoods. But, not to worry–it is coming together,” he said.
According to Mr. Gamble, it has been coming together for the past two-and-a-half years with a lot of hard work; and a lot of hard working, dedicated people. He said over 1,200 men had shown up for the orientation workshops, which began on Oct. 23 at Dobbins High, Germantown High and South Philadelphia High.
“We work from what we call a logic model, which is decrease the violence and increase education. That is the solution to most of our problems. Education will help us to understand the need for morality and the need to raise our standard of living–how to protect our families,” Mr. Gamble stressed.
“Please do not write your story and not share how Minister Farrakhan inspired me,” insists Mr. Alston to The Final Call.
“I attended the hip hop meeting in Atlanta during the Holy Day of Atonement, that the Minister attended. After the event, I was with him in the car and he took my hand, after I asked him to pray for me to have a successful event on Oct. 21. ‘Allah [God] would not put you in this position, if He did not want you to be successful’–that is what he told me,” recalled Mr. Alston.
Mr. Muhammad said that when he had the opportunity to address the mighty gathering on Oct. 21, he said that God had ordained their coming together.
“I told them the story of how God blessed Joshua to take the city of Jericho. In truth, Philadelphia is our Jericho; and just like in Joshua’s day, God will give us this city, if we have the determination to organize and work together, he said.
While addressing a gathering in town for the 10th Anniversary of the Historic Million Women March on Oct. 25, Philadelphia Mayor John Street shared his thoughts on the Oct. 21 event: “We were there to make a statement. If anyone needs to make a statement, it’s Black men, and we made a statement that day.”
Nisa Islam Muhammad contributed to this article.