07/13/08 — Second annual prayer walk held to curb violence

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Second annual prayer walk held to curb violence

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 13, 2008 2:01 AM

Hundreds of people met under the shelter at Fairview Park Saturday morning to walk and pray for peace in the community -- and an end to gang and drug violence.

The Stop the Funeral Initiative sponsored the second annual Community Prayer Walk. The Initiative is made up of several local churches -- the Wayne Faith Community, Rebuilding Broken Places Community Development Corp. and the Goldsboro Wayne Branch of the NAACP.

Rodrigues Butler found out about the Community Prayer Walk in 2007, and he has walked both years.

He hopes to see progress soon from his and others' efforts to draw attention to the violence and death that impacts many local neighborhoods.

"I hope this is going to make some change. I feel it will make an impact on this neighborhood and on Goldsboro in general," he said.

He learned about the first prayer walk when he was talking to a friend about the state of youths today -- especially their hangouts. The man he was talking to encouraged him to look into being part of the prayer walk.

Butler participated and came back again Saturday. United neighborhoods -- and people organized for a common goal -- can make a difference, he said.

"I believe people will be watching out for each other more and getting more involved in their community," he said.

Hazel Chatman and her 8-year-old granddaughter, Maniya Chatman, came out to march for the first time this weekend.

Mrs. Chatman said she knows how important this sort of gathering is.

"I'm a teacher, and I am concerned about the violence our young people are facing," she said. "I am working summer school, and it is sad to see the number of children we have in summer school."

Mrs. Chatman said making a change will require more than simply offering children extra help. Adults need to make the decisions necessary to keep children out of trouble and succeeding academically.

"Everybody involved with children it's all our fault," she said.

Mrs. Chatman said she feels she is making a difference.

The Rev. William Barber, a pastor who is one of the Community Prayer Walk's organizers and state president of the NAACP, said everyone who works with children or loves a child is part of the solution.

There is not just one answer to the problem of violence facing today's children, he said. It's going to take the educators, the churches and the business community to stop the funerals.

And he has learned a dollar on the front end will save $20 in the prison system.

"Right now, we spend more on prisons than we do on all five of our historically black colleges in North Carolina," he said.

Law enforcement and the courts are doing what they can, but he added that simply arresting every violator will not really stop crime.

"Somebody has to change their life," he said. "We've got to have some change in lifestyle and action."

And the problem is not just the wrongdoers, he said.

"We are also fighting a (legal) system that is schizophrenic," he said. "Eight people were pulled off death row in the past three or four years. They were black and white. And the only reason they were not dead was because the system moves slow."

But to fix the problems of drugs and violence in a community takes the hard work of not just law enforcement, but of the people who live in the neighborhood, the Rev. Barber said.

"If everybody does what they can, we can see some major changes," he said.

Those who gathered Saturday did their part -- walking, praying and then praying some more -- and most importantly, gathering to let the neighborhood know that they were united against violence.

They started from the baseball field in Fairview homes and walked nearly a mile around the housing project.

Several of those participating Saturday said they feel this Community Prayer Walk is making a difference.

The event is a good cause and brings attention to the issues in the community, first-time walker Patrice Worrells said.

She said the walk shows that people do care and want to do something positive about the situation.

"It's serious, but there is hope in it," she said. "When people come together for a common cause and unity, wonderful things can happen."