Saturday morning I walked with around 50 people who organized in an effort to improve the Winnsboro area by raising awareness that acts of violence will not be tolerated. These marchers were led by several women and a pastor who lost family members to murder.
Though the march had an impact thanks to dedicated supporters, the thing that resonated most with me was not the march itself or the speeches afterwards.
It happened before the marchers ever left the DSS parking lot off Kincaid Bridge Road.
The Rev. Eddie Woods gathered the group together, first with the children in a circle. Then the women circled around the children. Lastly, the men were placed in a circle around the women. They gathered that way for prayer.
But before the prayer, the pastor had some teaching to do.
That formation was in case the march faced violent opposition. If the situation required, the men would form a physical barrier to protect the women and the men and women would shield the children.
It is telling that organizers still felt called to put those safety measures in place, precautions that hearkened back to the nonviolent philosophy and experiences of Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis and others.
Thankfully, the march took place without incident.
Even so, the adults had very young children ride in a pick-up truck during the march to help keep them safe and keep them from becoming excited and darting out into traffic. Those youth chanted the chants and sang the songs at the county courthouse.
They also listened to admonishment from the pastors and adult leaders because during the march some of the boys in the truck were overheard singing songs and making references to gangs, violence and beating others up.
Making reference to that pained the speakers. I could see it in their eyes. But they hoped to seize upon the moment to rally the community against the forces of gang violence. There are better ways to find acceptance and grow into manhood.
One tool to lead young men down a different path is the Bowtie Club that Tony Armstrong and Superintendent J.R. Green are starting at Fairfield Middle School. Other tools include sports teams, church organizations, library programming, community watch groups, band, theatre, and art. These young people will absorb things to which they are exposed.
Ironically, an armed robbery provided opportunity for one man to show those young men riding in that truck just what true manhood is all about.
On Oct. 9 there was an armed robbery in Ridgeway. One robber forced a man from his car and forced him to accompany him into the store. While held at gunpoint the victim saw a store worker who was hyperventilating or maybe having an asthma attack.
While keeping himself between the robbers and the victim, with shouts for him to be still or they would blow his head off ringing in his ears, this brave man walked slowly to the woman. He knelt beside her and held her in his arms until the robbery ended. He was the shield the reverend mentioned and the stakes that day were life and death.
Please share this story of courage with our young people. Let’s talk about the man these young men should aspire to become.
Kevin Boozer is a staff writer for The Herald Independent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.