MARCHING FOR A CAUSE—Law enforcement delegates from the national NOBLE training convention, held in Pittsburgh last week, marched through East End neighborhoods to display their commitment to better serving the community. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
by Ashley Johnson and J.L. Martello
Courier Staff Writer
With incidents such as the wrongful imprisonment and harassment of a Pittsburgh public school teacher and a New Pittsburgh Courier photographer outside of a community meeting, and who can forget the horrible beating of a CAPA honor roll student, at the hands of Pittsburgh police, who was walking to his grandmother’s house; the relationship between the community and its law enforcement officials is strained, to say the least.
In an effort to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement and show its commitment to serving the community, hundreds of members of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) took to the streets of Homewood and East Liberty for their annual Memorial March and Church Service as a part of their national convention held in Pittsburgh last week.
“This march is extremely important. It demonstrates that law enforcement is not an enemy; that crime is the enemy and a detriment to everyone around, regardless of what color or whatever area you’re in. Crime is a danger, but law enforcement is a friend,” said Reginald Brown, a constable in Baton Rouge, La. “Showing up in numbers and marching proves and shows that we care. We care about everyone and their safety. That’s a demonstration and testimony to the commitment that law enforcement has to making our communities safer across the country.”
The march, held Aug. 7, was comprised of delegates from NOBLE and its Youth Leadership Conference. Marchers traveled from the YMCA, in Homewood-Brushton, through Lincoln-Larimer, to Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in East Liberty. NOBLE conducts its annual conference march through low-income minority communities as a reminder of the organization’s roots, its mission and its members’ commitment to being positive role models.
“The march was as I had envisioned it would be back in 1998 when I participated in my first memorial march; it was a dream come true. The Pittsburgh Chapter members worked hard to pull everything together to help make the march and memorial service a rewarding and memorable occasion,” said national NOBLE President and Assistant Chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Maurita Bryant. “I know that the community has never witnessed a large number of African-American uniformed officers from around the country marching through their streets; and by the looks on their faces, it was easy to see that they were as proud as we were.”
The march was led by a United States Marine honor guard, followed by students of the Afro-American Music Institute, located in Homewood.
“(NOBLE) is committed to justice for everyone…We would like to see everyone live to be ripe ages, not (taken by) random acts of violence that we’ve seen across the country, and to be fair about it, in a lot of our communities, Black communities. Enough is enough and a lot of it is due to lack of education,” said Brown.
Gregory Rogers, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of NOBLE said, “I think it’s interesting to see executives of police departments who are of color. This organization shows there is a future in law enforcement for people of color. We’re losing kids somewhere between when they wanted to be the doctor and they end up in jail. So somewhere in there is where we need to find them. We want to show we’re united behind them.”
Hamilton Murray, of Arkansas, said that being active in NOBLE Youth helps to keep him out of trouble, off the streets and shows that youth are worth something and not just the stereotype that they are often portrayed as.
Ashley Plater, 14, of Penn Hills, also a participant of the NOBLE Youth Leadership Conference, said, “I believe the community will appreciate us standing up and expressing that we do care and we want them to join us.”
Along with a need for better community relations, there is also a need for more minorities, especially Blacks, in law enforcement. When asked about the lack of minorities in law enforcement, Rogers agreed that there is a need for more minorities and said the only way to achieve it is by going forward and taking action. “Justice through action.”
Brown said he feels frustrated by the dwindling numbers of Blacks in law enforcement. “It’s frustrating because some of them (the numbers of Blacks) have dwindled because of the lack of trust and faith, and a lot of other things. That’s disheartening to us.” He added, “We have to let them know that you don’t give up because of one or two acts that you feel were not popular, or not right, or not just. You don’t quit. You fight on. And in order to fight on, you fight within; you join the ranks in order to correct those situations. That’s why we’re striving to get better educated people out into the industry of law enforcement.”
Following the march, a church service was held at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, where the church’s pastor, Rev. Dr. William H. Curtis, gave an uplifting Word.
For more information on NOBLE, visit www.NOBLE.org.
NEW PRESIDENT–Former First Vice President Chief of Police of Petersburg John Dixon III sworn in as the new NOBLE president. (Photo by J.L. Martello)