By Jared D. Childress | OBSERVER Staff Writer
It was the hottest part of the day, upwards of 90 degrees — but that didn’t stop scores of people from hitting the streets in the name of peace.
Chants of “We as one!” rang out at an Oak Park intersection. It was evening rush hour traffic and cars honked as they zipped by, catching glances of the large signs reading, “Increase the peace,” “Peace is the way” and “Trust in God.”
A DJ from KDEE 97.5 played music under a tent on one corner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 14th Avenue intersection. On the opposite corner, a pocket of people stood under trees waving similar signs at passersby. On the southeast corner stood Pastor Sylvester Howard of Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, shaded by a large umbrella, his sign read: “Don’t shoot.”
And this was just one location. Similar scenes in two other parts of town shared the same message of peace.
The “Enough is Enough; Silence the Violence,” rally, held July 13, protested the recent increased violence in Sacramento County. It took place simultaneously in Oak Park, Del Paso Heights and Valley Hi. There have been at least 19 homicides in the county since April, according to the Sacramento Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office.
The rally was the brainchild of Greg King, a community advocate and member of Trinity. While the event drew a critical mass, King stressed the importance of continued action.
“We have to stay involved – don’t just come today and not come anymore,” King said at the rally’s close. He later explained to The OBSERVER that this is the first of many steps to buck the violent trend.
“There is more to come,” he said.
Local Black churches championed the community effort. Some involved in the planning were Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, St. Paul Church of Sacramento, South Sacramento Christian Center, and Pearly Gate Missionary Baptist Church.
Minister Reginald Claytor of Trinity prayed over the event. He asked God to “stop the violence” and prayed for folks to “be one with our neighbor, allow us to be one with our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Claytor grew up in East Sacramento but the 36-year-old was raised at Trinity, making Oak Park a second home.
“There’s a lot of us who’ve felt the pain of death and loss,” Claytor said. “It’s always important to give back to the community to encourage those who are still struggling in some ways.”
In June alone, there were at least 10 homicides in the county and, at the time of the rally, at least two in July.
This isn’t just a youth problem, King said. The violence affects everyone regardless of age, race or location.
It’s also not just about gun violence, as King stressed. One homicide, reportedly not involving firearms, is currently being investigated by Sac PD. The Valley Hi incident June 16 found a man dead from “traumatic injuries.”
But young people have tragically been impacted by gun violence. A May 31 shooting stole the life of Billy Ray Scott III, a Black 18-year-old killed the day before his graduation from Grant Union High School. A 17-year-old suspect was arrested less than a week later, as reported by Fox40. Pastor Anthony Sadler of Shiloh Baptist Church officiated Scott’s funeral at St. Paul Baptist Church.
A July 11 shooting left two teenagers dead when a 15-year-old shot two people, ages 18 and 19, during an illegal gun sale gone awry.
Timothy Poole, the rally DJ, also is the founder of the “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Violence,” youth program. He said the event modeled for youth what it means to be unified and stand in solidarity.
“A lot of our kids are mad at OGs [the older generation] because they feel like we dropped the ball,” Poole said of the absence of intergenerational mentorship. “So we need to let our youth know that we’re in unity to save their lives.”
King said action begins when folks realize that “their life matters,” calling this a “peoples’ problem” that affects everyone. He became emotional at the close of the rally, but explained it was “not a sad emotion.”
“I’m emotional because I love my people and we showed up [today],” King said. “It’s an emotion that we should carry into the next step and the next step.”