Three years ago, the author of today’s guest blogpost wrote a Facebook posting:
MISSING MY SON “LIL MATT” — JULY 28, 2012 will be 3 years that my son has been gone from this earth. I will not let his death be in vain! I must speak out for our community. Many people in the crowd never knew that I had lost a son because they see me busy running around all of the time with a smile on my face. Well, I want to be a light for change. I’m going to continue to bring families of victims that have lost their love ones to violence, PASTORS, MINISTERS, AND COMMUNITY TOGETHER to have open dialogue on the issues that are plaguing our community when it comes to CRIME AND SCHOOL BOARD ISSUES. Pray for the COX FAMILY; JULY IS NOT ALWAYS A HAPPY MONTH…I LOVE Y’ALL! THANKS!“
Since I first met Cindy last August she has been a heroine of mine. We share that our sons were killed in the month of July in the spring of their lives. Lucinda Martin, is a long-time neighborhood activist with a long list of accomplishments and network hub from her Headz Up Beauty Salon. I love her loving spirit, and admire her fierce determination to see change. I hope you will take the time to read her essay below and also be inspired!
A Call for Unity of Vision, Purpose, and Action by Lucinda Martin
On my trip to Selma for the 50th anniversary commemoration of the bridge crossing we all came together for one common cause. Being led by Rev. Jesse Jackson from Browns Chapel Church, to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I had the opportunity to march with people whom I had never seen before; we marched with our elbows locked and stayed focused with tunnel vision until we reached our destination. It was an amazing experience! Again, I believe that we can work together to shift the mindsets and culture of this entire city and make it less violent. Reverend H.K. Matthews, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, and their followers were not fearful; they were young; and, I bet they had no idea that they were going to make history.
I have been living in Pensacola, Florida for 25 years. I thought that this was a calm military, tourist, and retirement city. I see now that all of the attention and money are directed towards the rich! I have not seen a change as far as the crime rate, and poverty rate. Escambia County has the highest juvenile incarceration rate, and Florida leads the nation with the highest juvenile incarceration rate. We have a lot of work to do!
We got to know that God is walking in faith with us and the different cultures, with different people, and different cities as we are not alone in our dreams to create a peaceful movement. RELATION BUILDING IS KEY: we have got to approach this process from a perspective and a foundation of a relation grounded in God, grounded in truth, love, compassion and humanity.
What we will be doing will be nothing but great art; an expression of our lives manifesting in its own truth. We have got to have active community participation.
That’s how I feel when I am creating a hairstyle on every client that sits in my chair. Idea first, true and solid, then I/we got to see it and feel it.
Each one of us are going to have to play the role of being the Director, Producer, and the Main character of this beautiful script that were going to write. With God all things are possible! We are going to have to be thoroughly educated on how to cure this violence which is spreading like a cancer in Escambia County. We are going to have to attend training sessions, local and far, and share information with the many organizations that will be joining us, which means that everyone will have to take copious notes, and/or have good listening skills.
I cannot emphasize enough that we have got to be excited about what we are doing. We have to become focused, organized, have the same vision, all looking in the same direction, and become an unstoppable force like Niagara Falls which starts as a stream.
It is going to take many people to shift the consciousness of Escambia County. But for an issue of this magnitude and for us to be effective, we have got to be committed and compassionate.
Our city/county needs to fund these types of initiatives. Most cities have (T.D.F.) temporary duty funds. Everyone who has some teeth in this initative that wants to see or be effective change agents should want to help fund or pay for sponsorship if there are needs for travel/training. Once our community sees that we are sticking together like glue, then they will take us serious and when can get support. If we do not ask, we will never know.
There are many high level American institutes, just to name one, Harvard University, that has a conference every year where people get together, think, and collaborate with the world’s finest minds from all over the world to try and produce social change through building local social movements. Sherry Sykes would have loved for us to attend the two-day Conference at the Harvard University. Sessions of the conference can be viewed on YouTube (see Confronting Violence/Radcliffe Institute, four videos).
Sherry Z. Sykes, a career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, visited Pensacola on September 15, 2014. On July 4, 2013, she lost her son Omar Sykes who was robbed and killed outside his Howard University campus in Washington. D.C. She wants to help shape our city and pave the way for greatness.
The Pensacola Voice interviewed Sherry Sykes, who had come back to Pensacola at the invitation of the National Movement for Civil and Human Rights. The community gathering was held at the Greater Union Baptist Church. The last two paragraphs of the Pensacola Voice article demonstrate how it is possible to turn personal tragedy–the loss of a son or daughter to senseless violence–and turn it into action [emphasis added]:
“Her talk was representative of a mother losing her son to violence and committing herself to making a difference by reaching out to others that have experienced the same pain. She stated that is her first opportunity to speak with other mothers who have lost children. Sykes stated, ‘I have been in this alone. I have not had the chance to talk with other mothers that have lost children. I have been in this a little over a year now trying to figure this out.’ In a later interview with the Pensacola Voice she added, ‘This trip was healing for me to meet with these mothers.'”
“The message she said she wants to leave is that violence is preventable both today and over the long term. She wants to leave a message of hope. In terms of next steps she stated that she wants to be responsive to what Pensacola and Escambia County wants her to do for them. She is willing to bring resources back and provide information as she learns it. Sykes said, ‘There are any number of possibilities that I can provide. I am here as a servant. If there is something people want me to do I am happy to follow through!'”
The Pensacola News Journal interviewed Sylvia Sykes before she spoke at the Greater Union Baptist Church community gathering. The Journal reported:
“The goal of her visit is to start a dialogue about what citizens what their communities to be like and give them so guidance on how to get there. Sykes said she hopes to meet with parents, children, church and civic leaders to listen to their concerns and ‘amplify their cry for help.'”
“‘We’ll map out a way forward,’ Sykes said. ‘Change doesn’t happen in communities until the members of that community put a concerted effort into it. By concerted effort, I don’t mean just sitting around and talking about it.'”
Sykes said the ultimate goal of the town hall to figure out what actions would have the greatest positive impact the local crime rate and rally local anti-violence resources into one targeted plan of action.”
Out of the three cities in the world she wanted to work with, we were fortunate to be one of them. She’s waiting on us! What are we waiting on?
With the right core group, focused in the same direction, we can effect change throughout the entire city. If we can get enough like minded citizens to give their all for peace, then we will be that unstoppable force.
It will not be easy, but we have got to start somewhere. We, the activists and those who want to become involved have to be trained on how to shift the culture and the mindsets of the entire community to make it less violent. We are going to have to have the eventual collaboration among law enforcement, county officials, mayors, substance abuse treatment programs, prison ministries, counselors, hospitals etc.
We definitely have to be focused as a team with a great amount of organizational and strategic planning. We can make this happen. We can start with the few people that we have. It does not take many people to shift the consciousness, culture, and mindsets of our area because this is a small city.
All we need is enough like minded citizens to give their all for peace, and then we can be an unstoppable force.
To be effective, every team member has got to stay focused on the cause, have the same vision, purpose and understanding as a team with a global perspective, and we have to continue to move forward with an optimistic approach. We are going to have to take very informative, intense training courses. When we try to shift the culture of our city, we are going to need a tool chest with the resources to educate us on how to shape and form our city in a way that we need it to be, and to educate us as being community activists on how to create lasting value and a change within our community properly to assist us in our efforts.
We have to be focused as a team with a great amount of organizational political industry; we need a tool chest; everyone needs to gather their tools, get together and educate each other on what we know to be effective so that we can have the power to shape our city in a way that it needs to be.
We can shape Pensacola to be like a GEM, if we all have the same focus, which is curing the violence in our city. We are not alone in our desire to create a peaceful movement and environment. We have got to approach this from a multicultural modality approach to establish a peaceful non-violent community.
We have got to understand and use music, education, and all forms of cultural communication. This problem exists all over the nation. All we have to do is see what works in other cities, or see what programs that we had previously in Escambia County that collapsed so that we can research and try again. We do not have time to waste!
With much prayer, and we can shape this little city like a gem. I believe that our city can be the light of the world, and our little city will shine and be a model to other surrounding areas. We will be that city on the hill, and we will not be hidden!
What we are trying to do is unprecedented in Pensacola. We have to endeavor to raise awareness in Escambia County. Yes, I expect for the devil to come, show up, and show out; this will only be a test for us to be thankful for the opportunity to show the power of our faith.
We have got our marching orders. Let’s get ready, get set, and let’s go!
Our country needs to be transformed from the inside out. Our mission should be profound. We have got to reach the top and bring as many of our community with us.
We have got to be consistent, motivated, and very meticulous. We have got to collect foot soldiers one by one.
This will definitely be a movement for peace! The sky is not the limit; beyond the sky are stars and planets. We won’t be moved!