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Youth-Led March Against Violence Puts Community On Notice
4/16/2014 3:13:54 PM

A youth-led candlelight vigil and march against violence, poor education and lack of economic opportunities drew nearly 200 emotional teens and community members seeking changes in their communities. The marchers gathered at Hampton Park as the starting point for the demonstration. Photo by Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
By Tolbert Smalls, Jr.

Nearly 200 teens, local leaders and community members gathered at Hampton Park to lead a march against violence, poor education and lack of economic opportunities last Friday. This march was the first of a series of youth-led demonstrations planned for the Charleston area.

The initiative was the result of recent disparities regarding poor education for black youth and the increased criminal activity over the last few weeks. One teen expressed that she was getting fed up with all the crime in her neighborhood. "I'm just tired of all the killing. Every time you turn on the TV you see another shooting or robbery. I miss my friends that were victims of senseless violence over stupidity."

Another teen with a tear in his eye said "As a young black man, we need to get focused on our education. We need to take our schoolwork seriously and get involved with more positive activities to keep us off the streets."

The march started at Mary Murray Drive and continued down Rutledge Avenue to King and Meeting Street before coming back to the starting point at Hampton Park.

Motivated teens crowded the sidewalk with signs reading "No More Black on Black Crime" and "Educate Our Kids". Others carried posters with photos of their lost loved ones. As they marched they yelled "Stop the Violence! Stop the Killing! We Love Our Kids!" Onlookers cheered them on as they marched through the streets.

Local civil rights advocate Elder Johnson of the National Action Network made it clear that the march was initiated by the youth of the Lowcountry. "We didn't organize this march. The youth wanted to make this happen and have their voices heard. We are just here to show our support and are very proud of you," Johnson said to the youth prior to the march. He expressed that young people are sick and tired of not being educated by a failing school system and want to reduce crime in their neighborhoods. "These kids can't get jobs to support their families with a certificate because they couldn't pass the test to get a diploma."

Pastor Thomas Dixon of the Coalition was also on hand for the event. "This is the first of many marches that will take place in the foreseeable future. We are always looking for more adult participation, which has been very limited," he said. Dixon noted that some adults would cry and complain about issues in their communities, but when it came time to fight and stand up, they were nowhere to be found. "Seeing young people put their plan into action was admirable, so the least we could do is stand up with them. Crime and inequality effects everyone and we won't stop until something changes."

The next plan of action is a demonstration in front of the Charleston County School District offices at 75 Calhoun on April 28. "We are working on the permit now so that we can march from Marion Square to the school district to raise the same issue at the school board meeting. We will do whatever it takes to make sure our voices are heard." Johnson said.

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