New faith-based initiative against crime launched in the wake of Destinee Ford killing

Destinee Ford

Jackson mayor and JPS chief issue statements 

By Lonnie Ross

Online Editor

Destinee Ford
Destinee Ford

Jackson city councilman Tony Yarber gathered with some leaders of the community and various religious organizations at city hall on Dec. 6 to announce the formation of a new faith-based alignment and its city-wide plan to engage the community in addressing crime in Jackson.

A day after the tragic shooting death of 15-year-old Wingfield High School student Destinee Ford, Yarber, who is also a pastor, revealed the strategy of Jackson’s Faith-Based Alignment Against Crime.

“This is not an organization,” Yarber said, “It is an organism. We don’t do stuff, we get stuff done. We need you to leave your guns at the door.”

With pastors, ministers and community leaders standing with him, Yarber referenced the death of Ford. He said it is “the job of the faith community to take back the streets that have been lost to crime and to senseless gun violence.” “People doing crime don’t respect God,” he said.

Yarber, who has children attending Wilkins Elementary, located on the same block as Ford’s murder, said the faith community’s job is to instill morality and respect. “Quite frankly, I think those of us that are here today understand that her death is not the beginning of anything. It needs to be the end of things.”

The Jackson Police Department announced the morning of the press conference that it had arrested two suspects in the shooting, Dennis Picket, 17 and Demonte Finch, 18, and charged both with the murder of Ford.

Ford died from a gunshot wound after an afterschool fight occurred around 4 p.m. within a block from both Wingfield High School and Wilkins Elementary School, according to police.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba issued the following statement shortly after Ford’s death:

“My heart is heavy to hear that one of our youth has been taken from this world due to senselessn violence. My prayers and deepest sympathy are extended to the family and friends of 15-year-old victim, Destinee Ford who lost her life to a recent shooting. We can no longer stand for violence in our city. We must unite as one – within our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches, and all across this city. We must unite as one force to put a STOP to the disease known as violence. A disease that continues to cripple the life and vitality of our city. We can no longer tolerate our youth being slain for no reason, or any other of our fellow Jacksonians being killed. I’m urging us to act NOW- I’m calling all state officials, all local law enforcement agencies, all neighborhood associations and concerned Jacksonians to take a stand towards one aim – to STOP this violent crime in its tracks. My fellow Jacksonians, together we will transform Jackson into a better city, and we will march on towards a better destiny.”

JPS Superintendent Cedrick Gray issued the following statement:

“We are deeply saddened about the tragic loss of our beloved Wingfield student, Destinee Ford. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and surrounding community. JPS counselors are providing grief counseling to students, faculty, and staff as needed. I along with the JPS family extend our condolences to the grieving family.”

Ward 6 City Councilman Tony Yarber speaks at the press conference, flanked by pastors, ministers and community leaders.
Ward 6 City Councilman Tony Yarber speaks at the press conference, flanked by pastors, ministers and community leaders.

Yarber, who made a request for the public to participate and get involved, announced Jackson’s Faith-Based Alignment initiatives that will begin to take place within the next few days.

A social evangelism event is planned for Dec. 14 from 10 a.m. to noon at New Horizon Church. The event will feature a rally, training and prayer. Yarber is hoping for a turnout of 1,000 to 2,000 people who can walk the streets and “shock and awe.”

He said the social evangelism would include knocking on doors, doing an assessment, “doing follow up in the community and provide programming to meet needs through our churches.”

Valerie Braylock of the Mississippi Alliance Against Poverty stepped to the podium and also made a call for 1,000 people on the streets in this initiative.

Abram Muhammad, the state minister for the Nation of Islam endorsed the joint efforts of all of the faith-based organizations. He said, “We must stop spiritual gang-banging with each other and model how the community should be…I believe in putting feet to prayer…We must let them know how much we care.”

Through the Nation of Islam and its Internet technician, Kimani Muhammad, on Dec. 14, said the Faith-Based Alignment is also introducing a “virtual hub” for the community and the alignment.

According to Muhammad, anyone will be able to access names and information on a website database about programs and services available to help people. They also envision the website to be a forum where ministers of different faiths can open up lines of communication, share ideas and organize events to show solidarity against crime.

For more information on Jackson’s Faith-Based Alliance Against Crime, call 769-257-8382.