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Coffins and community activists make a point to stop the violence

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:27 p.m.
Danny Goodine photos

The Tsunami of Peace rally was enough to stop traffic, as a convoy of hearses, coffins and marchers traversed the city's five boroughs to make a point to stop the violence. In a dramatic call to action, the organizers of the Tsunami of Peace: Ride, Walk and Rally Against Violence staged a mock funeral procession in all five boroughs.

"We cannot accept constant violence and death in our communities as the norm. It's time to stand up," said hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons in support of the rally.

"The peace rally was supposed to shed light on the great amount of shooting and killings throughout the city this year," said A.T. Mitchell, founder and executive director of Man Up Inc. "Our goal was to bring it to the attention of the mayor and other elected officials by us bringing a casket from each borough to the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. We wanted to do something different. We carried five caskets across the Brooklyn Bridge and delivered them to the steps of City Hall.

"The goal was to show people who seemingly turn a deaf ear to these killings in the inner city...to make them feel how we feel. So many passersby were shocked that we were carrying these coffins through their neck of the woods."

Donated Hertz funeral cars lined up in each borough at 10 a.m. on August 25.

Committed anti-violence activists came together to draw attention to the explosion of gun violence in the city this summer. Participants included Erica Ford, co-founder and executive director of LifeCamp Inc.; Rev. Vernon Williams of the Harlem Clergy and Community Leader's Coalition; Lance Goodwin, president of Trucked Out, Inc.; Staten Island's Rev. Kathy Barrett-Layne; and Gloria Cruz of the Bronx chapter of the Million Mom March.

Supporters included Simmons, Salt (from Salt-N-Pepa), rappers Jim Jones, Juelz Santana, Fat Joe and Maino and former New York Giant Michael Strahan.

"The culture of violence is too normal in our communities. The organizers of the Tsunami of Peace rally are here to promote a culture of peace instead. In addition to the mentoring, the educational programs and the training of young people that we do every single day, we are gathering to say that more needs to be done by all sectors of the society, including all elected officials, parents, students, neighbors...everyone. No one has all the answers, but together we can solve this problem," said Ford.

While the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not respond to the AmNews' call for a statement, Mitchell told the paper, "Councilman Charles Barron was really the only one who has consistently supported us. He told us that he would bring this up with the speaker and the mayor in terms of getting additional funding for our various stop the violence initiatives."

As he stood with the family of Khalil Robinson, the 10-year-old boy who was shot as he watched TV in his home last week, Mitchell added, "We have to counter this prevalence of violence. Thankfully, Khalil is back home and he survived the gunshots, but too often our children are facing this sort of danger. We have programs to challenge this disturbing trend. We have to man up and protect our communities."