By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
COMPTON (FinalCall.com) – A multi-ethnic, multi-faith coalition gathered for the 10th United in Peace Foundation’s Peace Ride in honor of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Hundreds of motorcyclists and low riders participated in their largest ride ever on July 28. Decked in orange, grey and classic black leather, they also held their first multi-city ride in honor of the thousands of families whose children have been gunned down in senseless violence throughout the country.
The grassroots coalition has taken a unique and unusual approach to issues of race and justice, that have resurfaced since a jury of six acquitted Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, on July 13.
Their aim is to reinvigorate the spirit of the 1995 Million Man March, wherein more than two million Black men responded to the call of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to meet him in Washington, D.C. and pledge to become better fathers, husband, and stewards of their communities.
“The 10th Peace Ride was actually a blessing and a sign from Almighty God Allah that what we’re doing is approved by Him because it’s growing,” said Student Minister Tony Muhammad, Western Region representative for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam and founder of the Peace Rides. “We’ve been consistent and it gets bigger every time we have done this and it shows that we’re filling a void, which is the aspiration of the people is peace but they just don’t know how to bring it into existence,” he added.
Congresswoman Janice Hahn has asked Min. Tony to make a presentation on their peace efforts to a Congressional committee on the plight of Black men and boys.
On the festival’s tribute to Trayvon Martin, she noted that Tracy Martin, his father, recently testified at a Congressional hearing. She also expressed her own belief that the only crime the teen had was that he was Black and wearing a hoodie. He was not suspicious, but he was killed at 17 and his murderer got away with nothing, she said.
“As much as I’m outraged over Trayvon Martin, I think what this ride does today and what this rally does today is say we ought to be outraged if any of our young people are killed. Any murder is wrong! Any murder,” she said, before she presented Min. Tony with an official proclamation for standing up for peace, love and righteousness.
Reverend Alfreddie Johnson, founder of the World Literacy Crusade, co-founded the Peace Rides and along with Dr. Hanan Islam of the American Health and Education Clinics, POWER 106 FM’s Big Boy, sponsor the rides. Pastor Claude Powe, head of the Called to Destiny Ministry, members of various motorcycle clubs of Southern California and the National Low Riders Association, are heavily involved in the peace effort.
Pastor Powe also heads a network of motorcycle clubs from Central to Southern California.
“I think this is just the beginning of a mass movement. We’ve only scratched the surface,” said Pastor Powe.
The riders waved UPFest flags, and, the roaring of their engines, communicated silently by pumping the Black power fist and peace sign with the scores of people who had run out of their homes and businesses, and lined the streets to videotape the procession.
Residents took pictures and many just waved in awe. One young man rode his bike as fast as he could pedal, keeping his eyes on the road while determined to videotape the motorbikes with his cell phone. The smiles on faces from young to old were priceless.
“L.A. is ready for peace! That’s right. Thank ya’ll,” an elderly woman yelled at the caravan when they turned the corner at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall. Mothers and children watched from behind thick black security gates and families waved from high on balconies.
The approximate five-mile procession paraded from Magic Johnson Park in Compton, through Inglewood, the Crenshaw District and South L.A. before rejoining thousands at the park for a free festival and concert. Festival participants were reciting the Million Man March Pledge as the caravan rolled into the park. “I felt like I was at the Million Man March. It was powerful,” an unidentified young woman said.
In a poignant moment during the program, activist Vicky Lindsey of Project Cry No More and the Southern California Cease Fire Committee, asked everyone who had a child that was killed by gang or gun violence to gather in front of the stage. Within less than five minutes, the area could hold no more. While they gathered and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” played from loud speakers, a video slideshow depicted photos of many loved ones gone but not forgotten.
“Get involved by choice and not by force because this happens from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hood and it ain’t all good when you feel this. But guess what, it don’t stop me from fighting because I believe! I believe that the violence can stop,” Lindsey said.
Mr. Muhammad asked everyone at the park to stretch their hands out toward the families. They bowed their heads as he led a prayer for them. And with everyone clutching the 1995 Million Man March Pledge for greater personal and societal responsibility and The Way to Happiness, the non-religious, common-sense guide to better living, he had everyone turn to the east and repeat after him.
“United! In Peace,” he began the call and response.
They continued, “Chicago! We feel your pain! New York! We feel your pain! Newark! We feel your pain! Oakland! We feel your pain! San Diego! We feel your pain! Philadelphia! We feel your pain! Cleveland! We feel your pain! Houston! We feel your pain! Atlanta! We feel your pain! Los Angeles! We feel your pain! Compton! We feel your pain! Long Beach! We feel your pain! So let us be united in peace! So let us be united in peace! And so it is.”
Many tears of pain quickly transformed into smiles and expressions of hope.
Next year, organizers plan to take at least 50,000 bikers and 5,000 cars in a nationwide Peace Ride.
Compton’s Mayor Aja Brown, Carson Councilman Mike Gipson, and a field deputy for L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson and Sheriff Leroy Baca also presented UPFest with proclamations for their efforts towards peace.
The peacemakers in turn presented the various city and law enforcement leaders with orange-framed awards for their long-standing work and for supporting the community’s call for peace.
In another jaw-dropping moment, a local businessman donated $25,000 to the UPFest Foundation and pledged another $10,000 before he left the stage.
The festival had something for everyone, especially children and youth. They enjoyed train rides through the park, bouncers, a game truck, free food, and face painting. Non-profit, community-based organizations were even offered free information booths.
Performers who rocked the audience included rappers and artists Kam and Young Bruh, Medusa, Project Blowed, OverDoz, and AKNU. Grammy award-winning jazz legend Stanley Clarke closed out the electrifying concert.
“We started out with so few people and now it’s gotten large and I’m just so happy. My goal is for it to go national. I’m from Philadelphia and I want to see it go to Philadelphia. I want to see everybody ride through the city of Philadelphia under the guise of peace,” Mr. Clarke said.
Many people found healing in the event and particularly, families who had written poems or songs for their loved ones and wanted to perform, according to Badru, director of the UPFest concert. Letting them on stage to pay homage to their slain family member was a very big deal for their healing process, Badru said.
“Recently, Stevie Wonder and KJLH has come on to be a partner in this monthly activity, which we hope to be able to carry to every city and duplicate what we’re doing here,” Rev. Johnson said. He added, “This is a concept of edutainment, which deals with enlightenment, empowerment, inspiration, as well as education and so we want to resurrect them in our communities by putting their attention on peace rather than on stopping crime and stopping violence because we believe whatever you put your attention on, you get.”
“There were so many people from different neighborhoods, walks of life, car clubs, bike clubs, all these different aspects in one place at one time but everyone was so friendly,” said Shannice Johnson.
“People were just speaking and talking and it was so welcoming. At first I was kind of intimidated because it was so many people, but honestly it felt like I was at a big family reunion,” she added.
The next Peace Ride is scheduled to take place on August 25.