March 4 Peace in Homewood

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The crowd was awash with black, white, yellow—and those were just the umbrellas that echoed the diversity of the 200 or so residents who braved rain and chill air to join in the Second Annual Prayer 4 Peace Rally and March through Homewood on Good Friday.

The diversity was further reinforced by the participation of speakers like Rakeem Muhammad, who joined several Christian ministers in addressing the crowd assembled in front of Westinghouse High School for the Good Friday rally and march.

I don’t care what religion you are or what color you are, what creed or what background you’re from. We are here because we owe these kids something—peace,” he said. “Drugs, guns, violence. It has to stop.”

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I AM BECAUSE WE ARE—Residents march up Hermitage Street in Homewood on Good Friday as part of the House of Manna’s Second Annual Prayer 4 Peace Rally. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Organized by Rev. Eugene Blackwell and his wife Dina “Free” Blackwell of the House of Manna, the April 22 rally kicked off with a rousing rap performance that fired up the crowd before Blackwell welcomed and thanked everyone.

“This is our community. You can’t believe the lies and tricks of the Devil,” he said. “God has a vision of hope and transformation for us, but he isn’t going to come down out of heaven to do it—we have to do it! And we are here to say we will do it. We will take our community back!”

In addition to clergy members like Pittsburgh Presbytery Pastor Sheldon Sorge, who said it is a privilege to sponsor Rev. Blackwell’s congregation, politicians, including Allegheny County Executive candidate Rich Fitzgerald and all three District 9 city council candidates thanked Rev. Blackwell and pledged to help rebuild the community.

Reverend Rickey Burgess, the District 9 incumbent, prayed for healing and said that every day in Homewood seems like Good Friday.

“Good Friday is the tough time,” he said. “But without Good Friday there wouldn’t be a resurrection on Easter Sunday.”

After Westinghouse Principal Shawn McNeil thanked all who attended, Rev. Blackwell called all the children forward.

“Scripture says there is a kingdom. ‘And a child shall lead them’ to that kingdom,” he said. “It begins right here in Homewood. Yesterday is done. A new leadership is emerging. And (indicating the children) it looks like this.”

With that the children picked up a banner and fell in behind the escort provided by members of the Rough Riders motorcycle club and a Pittsburgh police patrol car, making a large loop from Murtland Street, up Hermitage Street to Brushton Avenue, then down the hill to Frankstown Avenue and stopping at the intersection of Frankstown and Homewood Avenues.

Arriving at the intersection, Muhammad said residents should do this more often, and shouted, “Ain’t no drug dealing going on here today!”

Salvation Army Soldier Phillip Martin, who took part in the march nodded in agreement.

“We have kids shooting their cousins, fathers battling sons for the same drug territory,” he said. “But having more events like this, blocking traffic, keeping people from getting to work—they’ll start paying attention.”

As the bulk of the crowd entered the intersection, they heard an impassioned plea for change from resident and rap artist Da Button Pusha.

“You shouldn’t have to walk down here with a gun to walk home from the YMCA,” she said. “My son is 19 and he’s afraid to go to the Y. Tell me how to change this because it has to change.”

Blackwell was pleased to see more people turn out for this second march than for the first one, despite the weather.

“It’s really great seeing more people from the community,” he said. “It’s about them—well, us—we marched right past my house.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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