An exclusive interview with Joe Certaine, a key organizer for the 10,000 Man Call to Action
Over 10,000 Black men answer call in Philly (FCN, 11-12-2007)
FinalCall.com – On Oct. 21, over 10,000 Black men filled Philadelphia’s Liacouras Center responding to a call made by Dennis Muhammad, founder of ENOTA (Educating Neighborhoods to Obey Those in Authority; local Millions More Movement (MMM) Chair Kenny Gamble, entertainment promoter Charlie Mack, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and radio executive E. Steven Collins. The call, in part, is to create a significant presence of Black men on the streets of Philadelphia patrolling “hot spots” or high crime areas deemed by the Philadelphia Police Department. During an exclusive interview with Final Call Contributor Jehron Muhammad, operations manager of the MMM and former managing director of the City of Philadelphia, Joe Certaine, outlined the call to action.
Final Call (FC): What is the 10,000 Man Call to Action Initiative?
Joe Certaine (JC): The initiative itself is a call to Black men in Philadelphia to take their rightful place in the community.
FC: Why specifically Black men?
JC: Because the level of violence and the level of the murder rate in Philadelphia has disproportionately affected the African American community. We’re currently at over 320 killed with more than 85 percent of that being Black folks killing other Black folks.
In addition, the call was initiated to get a stronger presence of Black men in the community, in existing organizations, creating new organizations, but most importantly taking their rightful place in the community and on the street to create a presence and try and provide better security for our children, for our women, and for our elderly.
FC: Now let’s talk about the role you’re playing in this initiative, including background info to justify that role?
JC: I was the coordinator for the original call by Min Farrakhan for the Million Man March. In 1995 I coordinated Philadelphia and the region and worked with people at the national level on the overall coordination for bringing people. I also worked with (Rev.) Willie Wilson and the Nation of Islam on the 10th Anniversary of the MMM, which evolved into the Millions More Movement. I helped set up Philadelphia operationally and helped develop the current infrastructure for the (local) Millions More Movement. Operationally the chairman, Kenny Gamble called me when it was time to begin operations.
That’s where we are now. We’ve been working for the last month and a half to plan for the kick off for the mobilization that was held at the Liacouras Center at Temple University. From that we held orientation sessions in all areas of the city.
FC: What is an orientation session?
JC: The orientation sessions are to familiarize the men who attended the kick off with what their responsibilities will be in their own neighborhoods.
FC: What was the purpose for the kick off?
JC: The purpose was to bring men together and charge and challenge them with the role they need to play in the community and then let them know that there would be further information provided on exactly what was needed, what was required of them, and how exactly it would be done.
This would take place through a series of orientation sessions in smaller groups of men broken down geographically. So they’d have an idea of what they could do in their own neighborhoods.
We’ve done four so far. (As of presstime three additional orientation sessions were completed at area high schools and a recreation center.) Further follow-up (in even smaller groups) will be done to prepare the men to go out on the street in an orderly manner, and prepare them for involvement in the front line participation of trying to stop the violence in our neighborhoods and bringing some peace and order to the streets.
We’re in the process of launching our first tactical operation of putting men in the field, while still encouraging men to join Town Watches and block organizations and (other) existing organizations. But at the same time we feel it’s incumbent for us to do our part from a collective experience, for men to join together and go into the field and do what we need to do to strengthen our presence in the community, and provide a sense of safety at the community level. So that’s what we’re about to do.
FC: Do you the have numbers of people that have actually signed up?
JC: It’s my understanding through on sight and registration through the Internet that 12,000 (men) have signed up.
We’ll begin organizing some of those men into our first patrols. For execution purposes we’re using military standards. To make it manageable we’re using platoons and squads. Platoons equal four or five squads of ten men.
FC: Are they equipped with anything?
JC: They’ll have a communication person (equipped with a radio) for each squad. They’ll also be equipped with note pads and pencils to make note of abandoned properties, and other dangerous conditions in the neighborhoods, including missing street signs, street lights that are out, overgrown or trash infested lots. They’ll be dealing with general neighborhood conditions that contribute to poor public safety. In addition, they’ll be equipped with flashlights and whistles.
If they witness crime or illegal activity they’ll report directly to the police. They’ll also be in touch with their platoon and sight leaders via radio, who will operate from fixed sights around the city.
In addition, the City of Philadelphia is giving us tremendous support.
FC: Next year this time, what do you expect?
JC: I would expect that our neighborhoods would first of all be safer and people would have more of a since of unity and community in those same neighborhoods. Our young people would have more hope and see a future for themselves and that employment may be possible for an increasing number of our young people, and the business, civic and religious community would be working much better in concert for common goals. That is what I’d like to see (happen) in the next year. And I think we’re well on our way, but we have to keep the pressure on and we’ve got to maintain our own vigilance and our own diligence in moving forward with the mission.
FC: This sounds like Minister Farrakhan’s primary message from the Million Man March.
JC: Absolutely! The pledge we took at the Million Man March was to go back into our community and to individually honor the pledge by becoming better husbands, better fathers, better teachers, better leaders. As individuals we did that. When we came back 10 years later, the charge was that we’d done what we need to do as individuals, now we needed to work collectively to do what was required in our community (and) to join together and get rid of the egos and the pretentiousness that we seem to entertain and (to) work together to improve the community. It’s taken us two years to put together the infrastructure for that, but now we’re launching that.
FC: Thank you.