07/22/12 — Residents, clergy walk to battle crime, violence

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Residents, clergy walk to battle crime, violence

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 22, 2012 1:50 AM

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Local residents march in the sixth annual Unity in the Community Prayer Walk on Saturday morning. The event, sponsored by STOP the Funeral and the NAACP, was aimed at taking a stand against violence and crime.

Crystal Coley wiped away tears as she stood on the fringe of the small crowd gathered in the parking lot of Madison Market early Saturday morning.

She said a few words to police officers who showed up to escort residents participating in the sixth annual STOP the Funeral Unity in the Community Prayer Walk, but otherwise kept to herself.

Wearing cut-off jean shorts and a white halter top, a large tattoo adorned her back. Amid the artwork were two dates -- 1-22-91 and 5-3-12 -- along with a single name, "Khyrie."

Khyrie Roberts, 21 at the time of his death, was shot while standing in that very parking lot on May 3, and found dead inside the store when law enforcement arrived on the scene.

But to Ms. Coley, he was her son.

"I just want something to be done about all of this shooting," she said as the march got under way. "It's senseless. He didn't deserve to be shot like that. He didn't bother nobody. He was a good kid.

"All he wanted out of life was to work on cars."

The site was chosen for this year's walk because there had actually been two murders in that part of town in recent years.

The other took place June 1, 2010, when Stacey Lamar Edwards, 19, was shot while heading to the store, according to police reports.

The whole STOP the Funeral effort came about years before, prompted by other, senseless, shootings, organizers said.

Raheim Kornegay, 23, was killed April 22, 2007, followed by an alleged retaliatory shooting of his girlfriend, Sharon Sheppard, 28, four days later outside McIntyre Funeral Home, where she had been attending Kornegay's funeral.

Since the annual walks started six years ago, average attendance has been around 200.

It was probably closer to 60 participants this year.

Francine Smith, one of the walk organizers, said it's important for residents to get involved.

"It's about all of us in our community taking stock and ownership," she said. "We need to be attending government meetings. We need to know what's going on in our community so that we have a voice."

A follow-up community meeting is planned for Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Goldsboro Chapel FWB Church, 1314 Ben Brewington Court, she said.

The STOP the Funeral initiative has also introduced a program in recent years to assist those who have served time in prison or are getting out of a gang. Second Chances works with them in getting education and training for jobs.

It has been effective for those who have taken advantage of the option, said the Rev. Richard Weikel, pastor of Pleasant Union Christian Church in Newton Grove.

Weikel has attended the prayer walk every year since its inception.

David Copeland, 18, a recent graduate of Wayne School of Engineering who will head off to college at UNC-Wilmington in the fall, said he was compelled to come out Saturday morning.

"Whenever I see an event like this, I always come," he said. "As a black male, I can't ignore things that are going on with my people. (The shootings) hurt me a little. We couldn't do anything about it.

"This is my chance to do something and show the world that we do care what's going on and we do need change."

The Rev. Dr. William Barber, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church and the state NAACP president, invited two of the attendees, Jamela Grant and her son, who is a month old, to the forefront as a reminder of the reason for the occasion -- to make the city safer for children just like Ms. Grant's baby.

"Because at the end of the day, I want us to be real clear about why we can't quit, why we've gotta do God's work," he said. "Somebody died right here. We're not among those who walk away; we walk toward.

"We claim the community."