SALISBURY — Strong, religious-driven messages of accountability, leadership, participation and community served as backdrop Saturday for the second “1,000 Men Marching” walk through Salisbury.
The numbers didn’t reach 1,000 or even 100, but roughly 60 people marched purposely along Monroe Street from First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church on the east side to Moore’s Chapel AME Zion Church on the western side of town.
On each end, several speakers addressed the participants, about two-thirds of which were men. Roosevelt and Connie Jenkins, parents of the late Abraham I. Jenkins, who was slain Sept. 16 in Salisbury, walked with the group.
The couple had just returned from burying their son in Detroit late in the week.
The 1.2-mile march stopped for a moment of prayer at Institute and Monroe streets, less than a block from where the young Jenkins, 19, was killed. Roosevelt Jenkins also addressed the crowd later, announcing the creation of an Abraham I. Jenkins Foundation to help grieving families of victims of violence.
The Rev. Henry Diggs said the march provided a day for the African-American community to say enough is enough.
“You are here because you understand there is a sense of urgency,” Diggs said at First Calvary Missionary Baptist. “… We’ve talked long enough. It’s now time for action.”
Formed in 2012, the 1,000 Men Marching mission statement says it’s about “connecting communities with existing resources, while empowering men and families; by promoting excellence, education and productive citizenship.”
The emphasis Saturday clearly focused on productive citizenship.
Diggs urged participants to look at their own communities and note the senseless killings and how “we are killing each other, hurting each other and wounding each other.”
“We’ve created so much fear among ourselves that we don’t feel comfortable sitting on the porch and feeling God’s breeze,” Diggs said.
“… Doing the same old thing, the same old way, produces what? The same old results.”
Diggs and others also said too many people are refusing to step forward in identifying others who have broken the law.
“We see, and we don’t see,” he said, “… and it’s because of fear we refuse to speak out.”
With divine intervention, keeping faith and doing what “our inner voice tells us, there will be a change,” Diggs said, asking participants to make a statement with their march Saturday.
Stanley Rice, a deacon at Oak Grove Baptist Church in China Grove, said African-American communities in the past had respect for elders and accountability in neighborhoods. Today, Rice said, “We have the hood, but the neighbor is gone.”
Rice said God didn’t create men and women for destruction and chaos, and he quoted civil rights activist Vernon Johns who said once, “If you see a good fight get in it — this is a good fight.”
Rice encouraged others to reach out to the children without mothers or fathers and show them they were created for greatness, not violence.
“We have a sense of urgency in our lives,” said the Rev. Leamon Brown, pastor of First Calvary, “and we are fed up by the harm we are doing to one another.”
In addressing issues of the day, Brown said, God has to be kept first. Loving God is a moral mandate, he said, and it will help men to be better fathers, husbands and brothers.
Brown told his audience they must vote and cast ballots for candidates who “are for all of us, not just some of us.” He encouraged men and women to look closely at the upcoming Salisbury City Council election and communicate with one another about the candidates.
Only 14 percent of registered voters took part in the last City Council election, he said.
Voters also must examine future county commissioner races, Brown said, and ask Rowan County government to bring more jobs and economic opportunities here, “so we can take care of ourselves and loved ones.”
“We need to ask ourselves, what’s happened to us that we don’t have each other’s backs,” Brown said. He added the community has to look after single parents, the elderly and children.
“We need to stop talking about the village and be the village,” Brown said. “I’m so tired of talking about the way it used to be. Why can’t we have that village back?”
Quoting scripture, Brown said the harvesters are plenty, but the laborers are few. He said he hoped participants also “marched” into the schools as mentors and volunteered for non-profit agencies in the community.
The Rev. Andrew Davis, lead organizer for 1,000 Men Marching, welcomed other groups which have formed in recent months and years with similar outreach missions, including the North Rowan Connection, Fishers of Men Outreach, The Chamber, Rowan Concerned Citizens, Night Crawlers and Mission Possible.
“This is not a protest,” Davis said of Saturday’s march. “This is an awakening.”
While African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s marched for equal rights, “we are marching for a different reason, but with the same passion,” Davis said.
He said Saturday’s participants were marching for freedom from poverty, drugs, gang violence, lack of education and “from ourselves.”
“Things that prevent us from moving forward,” Davis said. “… No longer can we blame another race for our lack of anything.”
Davis said future marches will be coming to other reaches of the county to places such as East Spencer, China Grove, Woodleaf and Cleveland.
About 25 women wearing pink marched with the men Saturday to raise awareness about breast cancer. Nine members of the Country Boyz Motorcycle Club also rode in the Monroe Street march, which was led by a Salisbury Police sports utility vehicle, a Salisbury Fire Department engine and the pickup of Shirley V. Cuthbertson, Davis’ father-in-law.
The Rev. Carolyn Bratton, pastor of Moore’s Chapel AME Zion, and the Rev. Nathan Bratton, pastor of Ardis Chapel, were among the speakers at the end of the march.
Nathan Bratton stressed the need to communicate within communities, even if it’s stranger to stranger.
“We are going to start speaking to people, even if we don’t know them,” he said.
Carolyn Bratton based her message on Moses, and from the steps of Moore’s Chapel, she challenged the people in her audience to become leaders.
“We need to understand that God has called us,” she said, adding people must have the attitude that says, “I know I’m not perfect, but I’m willing to go” — and be a leader.
“Anybody want to be a Moses?” she asked. “Anybody willing to be a Moses?”
Bratton encouraged people to step up, promising they would find followers to go with them.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.