BY NAOMI MARTIN
Advocate staff writer
March 31, 2012
Hearing the chants of “justice” in the streets, neighbors streamed out of their houses Friday night to join a group of about 150 Baton Rouge residents holding candles and marching along Fairfields Avenue to call attention to the city’s high murder rate, as well as the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
“The violence here is crazy,” said Brenton Scott, 16, who knows five boys who have been shot and killed from his Park Forest neighborhood. “I came tonight because I wanted to show everybody that we’re doing something about it.”
The march, organized by the Working Interfaith Network of Baton Rouge, began at the Berean Seventh Day Adventist Church about 6:30 p.m. with speeches and prayers. The organizers urged participants to sign their “next day pledge,” a commitment to take part in efforts to reduce youth violence and mass incarceration in East Baton Rouge Parish.
The speakers decried black-on-black violence.
The Rev. Robert Davis, pastor of Berean Seventh Day Adventist Church, said that a public outrage similar to that being expressed over Trayvon Martin’s killing should have happened earlier in the black community, considering the country’s 58,500 black-on-black murders over the past 10 years.
“Enough is enough,” Davis said. “We’ve already shed too much blood.”
Davis said the community needs to take action and partner with law enforcement to quell the violence.
“But if we don’t have a partner in law enforcement, we’re going to stand over your shoulder and you’re going to get sick and tired of seeing our faces,” Davis said. “We are not going to stand idly by any longer.”
The Rev. Jennifer Jones-Bridgett, of Shiloh Baptist Church, said she hoped the outrage sparked by Trayvon Martin’s killing would call attention to the injustices of Baton Rouge’s own murder problem.
“Everybody in here knows somebody who been killed, questions never really got answered, and we got silent and went back in the house,” she said. The audience answered, “Amen.”
Kerrick Alexander, 23, said the march was an outlet for black people to voice their frustrations with both crime and racism.
“To see people come together and actually show we care, the young people care — that’s really cool to see,” he said.
Alexander said he coaches teenagers in basketball because he wants to keep them off the streets to avoid the kind of violence that took the life of his best friend when he was 14 years old.
“It’s really making me consider it as a career because I’m able to make a change in a kid’s life and keep them from being dead or on the path to being dead or in jail,” he said.
Margaret Evans, 50, said she wanted to march to draw attention to the racism she and her family still experience today. She said one of her sons had recently been harassed by police in Mississippi who had told him: “You can’t do anything about it.”
“This is our opportunity to say, ‘Yes we can,’” she said.