By Chris Young,
Restoration Community Church Pastor Joseph White sponsored the day-long event at the Garaywa Conference Center, 312 Garaywa Road in Clinton Saturday, May 21. The event opened with a welcome message from Minister Dennis Ayers, followed with prayer led by Minister Andrew Dinkins.
Pastor White, speaking about the troubles in Jackson and especially the crime, reminded the approximately sixty attendees of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
He made it clear that his heart will just not allow Jackson to implode. His stated goal for the conference was to provide an opportunity for us to listen to one another and collectively work with each other to bring out the best in terms of solutions in trying to make a difference.
Jackson Police Chief James Davis took the stage to resounding applause and delivered a talk focusing on crime and justice – the problem and the solution. He shared that he recently attended an FBI conference in Virginia and discovered that with no exceptions, every capitol city across America is dealing with the same issues as Jackson. Borrowing often from scripture, he indicated that there are too many men asleep.
He shared stories of interacting with Jackson youth, often times those who are involved in criminal activity, and having them sob on his shoulder once he told them they were better than what they were doing with their lives.
He asked people to imagine if pastors went out in the streets and owned their blocks. He believes that their congregations would follow them. He indicated that the root of the problem in Jackson is the people – who is getting through to the people? He asked attendees to go back to their neighborhoods and get involved and to pray.
He encouraged attendees to seek out young people and show their hearts. “Kids are looking for real, looking for love, that’s all they are looking for,” Davis said.
He explained there are 3 C’s in the criminal justice system – cops, courts and corrections and that if any of these three are broken, we have a problem. If the criminal justice system is not working, there is going to be street justice.
Jessica Frazier, founder of MOMS (Mothers of Murdered Sons), indicated that she now has 152 women in her organization and they support each other. “Everybody can say they understand, but until you are in our situation you do not understand.”
She has started a 24-hour phone line for women when they need to talk, and she has the help of a counselor who provides services pro bono. She wants to bring awareness to gun violence and puts pictures of the murdered sons on billboards. “They need to understand that when they murder the son they are murdering the mother, too.”.
She currently has eight billboards throughout Mississippi. She indicated that 80% of the young men that are doing these crimes are repeat offenders, and that 90% of the faces you see on the billboards have absentee fathers.
She believes the billboards also keep police officers on their toes because they have to ride by them every day and see what is happening to people that look just like them.
She stressed accountability. “When you know your son has a big gun in the house, tell the police.”
Felicia Marshall, founder of Grant Me Justice, who lost her daughter Alexia to gun violence – the 14th murder in Jackson in 2017. She stated that the name Grant Me Justice comes from Luke 18:1-8. She went on to raise her then 3-year old granddaughter.
“The main thing that Grant Me Justice does is to love on families that have lost their children to violence, and we do it in three ways: 1) we document their story, 2) we provide tangible resources for our families, and, 3) we have partnerships with RTS (Reformed Theological Seminary) here in Clinton for counseling, Redeemer Church on Northside Drive and Musee Bath (handmade bath balms) in Madison County.”
“It’s not JPD’s fault. It’s not Chokwe’s fault. It’s happening on our watch and the saddest thing about it is there is a church on every corner and they have become comfortable. They say they have outreach, but then we expect them to come in. Out means out.”
Justice Court Judge Kenneth Lewis spoke about administering justice. He stated that being a judge is what he does but being a man of God is who he is. He asked people who voted to raise their hands, and state, “It is us who are not looking at the people we elect to see what type of character they have. A lot of times they don’t have character, they are characters. They don’t have candidates, they are candidates. Their platforms didn’t make them a fool, they were fools before they got in there.” He indicated that he has seen all aspects of the system and went on to illuminate many examples of inefficiency. He stated that we need to stop pointing fingers and realize that it’s the whole process that is faulty.
Vince Gordon, founder of Prove ‘Em Wrong (PEW), is responsible for the signs posted around Jackson stating – If Black Lives Matter Then Why Are We Still Killing Each Other.
He grew up in South Central Los Angeles and his family moved to Jackson out of concern for his brother’s affiliation with gangs. He has worked with Young Life in inner-city Jackson for almost 25 years.
Through a connection with a member of a weekly prayer group, a telephone call was made to Lamar Advertising Company, and soon a billboard was provided to PEW. He strongly encouraged the involvement of any man in a child’s life – “back off and let him help that child.”
He offered that the church is messing up, and messing up on so many fronts. “This conference needs to be city-wide, needs to be in every school, every speaker that got up here needs to be together on a mobile collective and go into these schools.”
The Mississippi Link caught up with Pastor Joseph White at the lunch break and asked what his impressions are so far in the conference and if he is satisfied with the event. “I would have liked to have had a stronger attendance but the enthusiasm and insight and the spirit of appreciating the need for God is here and it’s strong and I’m extremely satisfied with that.”
Flowers were presented to the mothers’ organizations by the Men Who Care About Jackson committee. A full hot lunch was provided for the attendees.
Contact Minister Dennis Ayers at 601 951-1020 if you have any questions or want to get involved with Men Who Care About Jackson.