Pouring rain and strong winds did not dampen the energy and enthusiasm of those of us who participated in the 8th Annual Silence the Violence March and People’s Festival this past weekend in Detroit. Led by Pastor Barry Randolph of the World Famous Church of the Messiah, the march was an opportunity to speak out against the horrific gun violence that has relentlessly affected Detroit and surrounding communities. As we walked peacefully through the streets of Detroit, Pastor Barry led us in chants of “Silence the Violence!”, “It’s our neighborhoods our streets!”, and “Stand up, speak out!”. Participants carried banners representing numerous organizations including Crime Stoppers, Cease Fire Detroit and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. We also held signs created by the Remember Me Quilt Project of Michigan that featured photographs of innocent victims of gun violence. The march was an opportunity to mourn the tragic deaths of these individuals, to celebrate their lives, and to offer comfort to surviving families, friends, and loved ones. It also served as a powerful platform to protest senseless gun violence and to work collaboratively for change.
U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell gave an impassioned speech in which she referenced her personal experiences with threats of gun violence and implored us to work for change. Other luminaries included Wayne County executive, Warren Evans, Detroit Police Captain, Kyra Hope, representatives from the Detroit City Council, and Andrew Humphrey from WDIV channel 4. This event was also a celebration of the 100th birthday of activist Grace Lee Boggs.
Gun violence is all too familiar to members of the Church of the Messiah. In the week prior to this year’s march at least 27 Detroiters were shot, 3 fatally. Tragically, two of Pastor Barry’s church members were killed in the days prior to the march. With deep sadness, he announced that he would be presiding over one of the funerals following the day’s festivities. Looming large in our collective outrage was the recent atrocity in Charleston where nine innocent members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were gunned down by a white supremacist during a bible study session.
Pastor Barry Randolph approaches gun violence as a problem that is multi-faceted, rooted in numerous interconnected societal ills. He recognizes that problems such as poverty, unemployment, blight, drug abuse, crime and hopelessness are often a toxic combination, especially when combined with unfettered access to guns. The Church of the Messiah has developed a holistic approach to the problem of gun violence. In addition to serving as a religious gathering place, the church also empowers its members by facilitating economic development and community pride. Through the tireless efforts of Pastor Barry, the church offers members opportunities to learn about financial literacy and assists members in creating their own new businesses. Additionally, the church helps people find affordable housing and provides true hope for individuals who may have very few resources. By mobilizing coalitions of religious, community, business, law enforcement, and government leaders, the church strives to strengthen community, reduce crime, and eliminate associated gun violence.
It was truly a privilege to be part of this energetic, positive, and passionate gathering. As Pastor Barry concluded his remarks to the crowd, he reminded us that it’s not enough simply to attend a march and carry a banner. Rather, we all must do our part to work continuously to end violence and the societal ills that breed it. Each one of us individually and through organizations such as PPGV must help to heal our communities by speaking up for what is right, and by promoting safety and sanity in our world. I am proud to be affiliated with PPGV as we work together to achieve lasting and meaningful solutions.