July 5, 2018 – Bill Kubota, Detroit Public Television’s One Detroit
The Church of the Messiah’s pews were packed this last Saturday morning in June.
Pastor Barry Randolph prepared the crowd for the eleventh annual Silence the Violence march through Detroit’s east side Islandview neighborhood to fight gun deaths.
Dozens of poster boards lined the aisles with photos of those who’ve died from gun violence.
Randolph reacted to a complaint from one neighbor unhappy with the event.
“Oh my God! Another traffic jam, like it’s inconvenient!” he said. ”I can’t help it. Murder is inconvenient.”
Close to two hundred filed emerged into the sunshine, led by the church ’s youth marching band, starting on East Grand Boulevard and East Lafayette Street.
While the heat rose to ninety degrees, organizers passed out cold water bottles as the trek began.
“This year we’re calling it the Million Children’s March because of what’s going on in our country,” said Randolph, who tied his event to others nationwide. “It’s everyone coming together, standing up for our community, standing up for the rights of children and creating the type of community for which our children can be proud of.”
Crime and violence in the city has become easier to track in neighborhoods like Islandview with the advent this spring of the Detroit Crime Viewer, an interactive map of crimes reported to police.
The viewer shows less than 20 reported crimes in Islandview between June 27th and July 4th.
Most were thefts and larcenies that week but across the city Detroit reported more than 15-hundred criminal acts, including five murders.
Last year there were 267 murders in Detroit, down from the year before, but the city still has the fourth highest murder rate according to The Trace, an online news outlet dedicated to issues concerning gun laws and gun violence.
Myya Jones, age 23, served as youth organizer for Silence the Violence and brought her younger siblings.
“I didn’t see this when I was younger.” Jones said. “The youth here, all they see is violence. All they see in the media is violence so we have to give them a chance to see that it’s not just all violence all the time.”
Jones, who’s running for the State Representative, said two of her cousins were murdered, and her father was a drug dealer.
“Me and my best friend used to be around drug people all the time,” Jones said, “People don’t realize youth see that stuff. You have young kids out here selling weed, trying to make a living.”
Islandview resident Jennine Spencer lost a nephew five years ago to gun violence.
“We don’t talk about it,” Spencer said. “We push it under the rug and think nobody cares. We do care. And if we start standing up and talking about it and come together, that’s how we can all work together.”
Pastor Maurice Hardwick came from Detroit’s west side to take part. Hardwick said he was impressed by the turnout of the young people.
Hardwick said, “The marching, with every step they take, it’s what they’re saying, ‘I want to live,’ because they know their chances and the rate of death, their dying this summer is very intimate and very real.”