Men who care about Jackson held second annual conference to eradicate violence

By Janice K. Neal-Vincent, Ph.D.,

Contributing Writer,

Elicia Marshall’s daughter was murdered by gun violence. She speaks of her devotion to working with murdered victims’ loved ones. Photos by janice neal-vincent
Assistant Chief Derrick Jordan (CPD) calls for generations to unite, despite philosophies and backgrounds.

According to Violent Crime in Mississippi: A Data-supported Analysis and Evidence-based solutions, “Although violent crime rates increased in urban and rural areas, the sheer number of homicides in the Capital City skews Mississippi’s data. Jackson accounted for less than 6 percent of the state’s population in 2020 but more than 50 percent of all homicides. Jackson’s violent crime rate rose sharply from 2018 to 2020. It is now more than double that of Gulfport, and more than 4x that of Southaven. 

The homicide rate in Jackson is the highest in the state by far – almost 5x higher than Gulfport and over 18x higher than Southaven – and one of the highest in the nation.”

The prayer breakfast on stopping violence in the City of Jackson was held by Men Who Care About Jackson at JSU e-Center (1230 Raymond Rd., Jackson, Miss.) from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Saturday, May 20, 2023. 

The conference, sponsored by Restoration Community Church (328 Boling Street, Jackson, Miss. 39209), focused upon salvaging Jackson. In light of the theme – “Stronger Together” – the church’s pastor, Joseph White, said, “This is an apolitical meeting where we are searching for solutions based on truth, compassion and what is just for everyone.”

Socrates Garrett – owner of Garrett Enterprises, Inc. in Jackson – calls for strong, black-owned and operated businesses to be seen by children and supported by community.
Pastor Scott Fortenberry of Soul City Church in Jackson says to get rid of poverty, broken relationships must be healed.

White continued that persons in Jackson are 3 times more likely to be killed versus in Chicago and Detroit. He indicated that the problem of violence has already been identified and the conference should be addressing solutions.

“The children in so many ways are starving for leadership and guidance, so we know that mentorship is important. We want to hear each other, feel each other, be patient and listen to one another,” said the pastor.

White called for respect for humanity which would spark unity. Getting people to cooperate and work with one another would alleviate defensiveness. The future of Jackson is resting in the hands of the people who desire to “pull it together.” White concluded by requesting attendants to complete the survey on the City of Jackson which would be shared with the City Council.

The Rev. Jeffrey Brown of Boston, Mass. gave a video presentation that explained that youth are looking for adults to be consistent in their behavior and to not present themselves as their attackers. He revealed that neighborhood walks with his constituency proved beneficial in that they found most youth to be intelligent and engaged in the struggle. “From that point on, rather than looking at youth as “problems to be solved,” the group began to see them as “partners.” Thus, leaders (police officers, judges, probation officers, etc.) “saw the whole as greater than the sum of its parts,” said Brown.

Forrest Thigpen (Empower Mississippi) calls for emphatic listening for a better Jackson.

Rodney Depriest of Group Violence Intervention claimed that youth deserve the same grace that God provides those who know Him to “rebuild the wall” of Jackson. He charged that leaders and attendants have the opportunity to reduce violence and to reduce “an acceptable amount of incarceration.” He further called for reconciliation among churches.

The founder of Give Me Justice, Felicia Marshall, spoke of her pain and her purpose after her daughter was murdered in Jackson. She works with families whose children or other family members were murdered. She shared her concerns about a church experience: “I was told that if I would continue to be involved in the families’ lives, they would change me, but I take issue with that. The Word says it’s the gospel that sets people free. That takes discipleship. That takes loving.”

Dennis Ayers – the facilitator – concurred with Marshall and mentioned that Jackson is lacking in operating in the kingdom of God and what He has given us. “Jesus sees sheep in Jackson that are without a shepherd [while operating in the spirit of darkness],” he said.

Assistant Chief Derrick Jordan of the Capitol Police Department observed that victims and perpetrators of violence are “getting younger and younger.” He then called for deliberate and consistent unification that could occur from a revelation that youth and adults “come from different philosophies and different backgrounds.” For the Fall school term, Jordan and his team are planning to implement knowledge of the laws and how to interact with others.

“There is a need for specialized training. It’s important to provide forums to show the community what we’re doing. Community and policing are viewed differently across communities in Jackson. There are some areas that need more structure, so community policing efforts must be tailored accordingly. We are visible in the community. Individuals are held accountable for their actions. That includes officers and citizens. Relationship building [is essential].”

WMPR manager, Sherrie Jones, reacted, “To get unity in our community, you must change the economics, the houses in South Jackson. You must invest in our community. Don’t avoid stability for certain areas…Most importantly, we’ve got to start to come together.”

“The people you vote for need to know how you feel. We can do those things, but we must hold those people responsible. Most of the kids committing these crimes can be redeemed,” stated Jordan.

Soul City Church’s pastor, Scott Fortenberry, said that he grew up in Clinton during post segregation. “In my world, racism was a thing of the past. The problem of poverty is a problem of broken relationships. We’re using some of the same words and some of the same language, but we’re not connecting the dots. While racism is an issue here in Mississippi, it’s one that we can deal with and recognize that we’re all people, and we all need each other. Give the people in our community an opportunity for the walls to fall.”

Ayers injected, “Children are born into the chaos. We owe it to the children. The people in Jackson deserve to live in peace.”

“Until we figure out how to drive the economy in the African-American community, we’re going to continue to have a problem. When you get poverty, you get crime, a breakdown in the family. It was created when J. Edgar Hoover took the black male out of the house. When he was removed, the kids had no fear. This policy created this scenario, and what we have now is something that’s out of control – the highest incarceration in the world,” pitched Socrates Garrett, owner of Garrett Enterprises, Inc. in Jackson.

Garrett stated further that black children do not see the impact of economics in the Jackson community. “Our black elected officials are carrying the same mantle as white elected officials.” The speaker charged listeners to “create and invest in black communities. Organizations trying to help people are a million times more helpless than the people they are trying to help. We’ve got to build a strong, economic base [with more black-owned and operated businesses]. We must start to support each other. Take care of yourself, support your own organizations.”

Forrest Thigpen (Empower Mississippi) explained that there are three conversations that occur when persons are in disagreement. “The person you disagree with talks. You talk. You and the person should empathize. The key is to listen. Mention that you want to find out where he/she is [on the issue]. The way we approach and react to what is heard determines if we will be heard.”

Retired Chief James E. Davis of Jackson Police Department, charged that all must do their part to wake up and take back Jackson. The church is held accountable for taking its rightful place. He said, “young people want love. If you don’t give them love, then demonic spirits will give them love.” Davis said that people in Jackson must “man up” and “woman up” by working under the auspices of God and His assignment for Jackson. He concluded that those present were “the disciples” and they didn’t have to “figure it out” because “Jesus is looking for some bold individuals [who understand their call to take back Jackson].”

The conference closed with Ayers praying for Davis in the midst of those surrounding him. “We pray that he will not yield to the temptations brought upon him. We pray for his family and household. We thank you for the hedge you have around him. We release him, Father God, a color-blind man – a man of honor in the city – to go forth.”

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