The National Movement for Civil and Human Rights took the first steps with Sherry Zalika Sykes, a career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, in joining cities around the nation to offer the results of her research on impacting youth violence. On Monday evening, September 15th, Greater Union Baptist Church, was the site for a community conversation on “where your community is now and where it expects to be in the future” as it relates to curbing youth violence.
This event was the first of many outreaches that will be organized by the collaboration of Sykes, the National Movement, and technical assistance resources identified by Sykes. The church sanctuary at Greater Union attracted concerned citizens from around Escambia County making the first event a big success. Invitations were sent to the mothers who have lost their loved ones to the lifestyle of violence that permeates communities around the country. The agenda and the flyers were designed by the Thornton Review Social Media Network in collaboration with the HK Matthews and Ellison Bennett of the National Movement for Civil and Human Rights.
The outreach worked! For example, the grassroots organization, Parents Against Injustice and Negligence (PAIN) responded to the invite. Lavon Brown, the President of the non-profit, stated “This meeting confirmed what I have been hearing since we organized PAIN to create community awareness and crime prevention. Ms. Sykes confirmed that people need to come together as one that way we can make a difference as a whole. Lisa Wiggins, a Director of PAIN, stated, “The lady’s arrival here will create that exposure that we need. What I want to see come out of this meeting is more financial resources to come to the Pensacola area so that we can fight this violence going on in our community”. Cindy Martin, the President of Montclair on a Mission (MOM) gave a testimony on the impact of her losing her son to violence.
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”!