Taking it back

June 6, 2009 

It was, by most definitions, a small march and demonstration. But the 75 or so people who sang and prayed as they moved down Haywood Street in Southeast Raleigh last Saturday were powerful in their commitment to making the neighborhood's streets safe again.

The march came after a teenager died the previous Sunday night, gunned down just outside his father's house. Rodriguez D. Shay Burrell was three blocks from a police command unit.

Neighborhood activists are talking about a gun "buy back" program in the city to try, at least, to reduce gun violence. And they're raising awareness with a "Jericho Box," where people from the neighborhood will offer their own ideas on slips of paper. Police handed out pictures of Burrell and offered a reward for information that might lead to his killer.

In taking on the issue of crime from within, those who were marching recognize that no amount of police presence, no prospective penalty, can deter everyone from crime. They understand that community awareness is important, that community activism also is, that personal involvement on the part of neighbors is. Without it, there are nothing but closed doors with fear behind them. And that, inevitably, will make it more dangerous for everyone once those doors are opened.

The Rev. David Forbes may have said it best at the march: "We have to take our streets back. Our children were not born violent. They became violent because we as parents took our eyes off the prize."

Of course the march was just part of the effort. Young people need to spend more time in parks. The city of Raleigh needs to keep working on community activities for them. Volunteers must be mustered to provide mentors and a choice of activities that can be an alternative to gangs and violence. In that sense, there is another, longer march coming.

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