‘Unity Walk’ in Trenton to visit sites of murdered victims
Like biblical verses, Rev. Lukata Mjumbe can recite the names of the city’s murder victims, the date they were killed and where.
In an attempt to humanize the victim, the executive director of Urban Mission Cabinet Inc. has made it his mission to learn what he can about the lives that ended too soon.
“I know these names because we pray about them by name when we come together,” Mjumbe said in an interview last week with other community religious leaders. “They’re no longer statistics for us.”
For the second year in a row, the United Mercer Interfaith Organization (UMIO) will host a “Unity Walk” on May 1 to visit the sites where victims were murdered this year. The Mercer County freeholders and Trenton council have already passed resolutions recognizing May 1 as the official day of unity in the community.
The walk originated last year after bullets entered the Galilee Baptist Church during a funeral in April, injuring several. Religious leaders met and decided they needed to take the message to the streets, said Mjumbe, who co-chairs UMIO.
“We need to go to those places where we were having these types of community conflicts, to go into the places where violence was running rampant and to directly engage the people,” he said. “We not only need to talk the talk we need to walk the walk.”
Islamic Center of Ewing Imam Qareeb Bashir, who is also the city’s fire director, co-chairs UMIO, an organization which spans many different denominations.
“We’re one human family,” Bashir said. “The murders that took place, these were people who were parts of families … but also part of the Trenton community.”
By the religious community coming together, Bashir said it exemplifies comprehensive strength that it is a serious matter and something needs to be done to stop the bloodshed.
“Hopefully, it will bring awareness, unity and it also will show the families that people really care,” he said.
Two years ago, Trenton experienced the city’s deadliest year with 37 murders. Last year, even though there was an 80-day stretch with no murders during the summer, 33 people were murdered. So far this year, there have been six reported homicides.
“We want to say to the kids that are living, let’s stop the murder,” Shiloh Baptist Church Rev. Darrell Armstrong said. “Trenton as a land has had so much turmoil, so much challenge, so much tragedy, so much trauma. It’s time to give the land a rest.”
Armstrong, who is on the UMIO steering committee, says the walk will be part in parcel with the Black Lives Matter marches. But he believes it’s more than just white police officers involved in the deaths of black men – it’s blacks killing other blacks like mostly what has occurred locally.
“What is the value of any life regardless of who pulled the trigger and who is on the other side that received a bullet?” Armstrong questioned. “What we’re saying in our local community, the lives of these six persons matters so much that we want to not only go to the places and reclaim where their murders took place, but we also want to make a very definitive statement that death of any kind is not acceptable. “
Unlike the recent Black Lives Matter protests, though, Westminster Presbyterian Church Rev. Karen Hernandez-Granzen said the “Unity Walk” will have no chants or signs.
“For me, it’s a statement without using any words when we walk the streets of Trenton,” said Hernandez-Granzen, the vice-chair of UMIO. “It gives us an opportunity to just enter into conversations with our neighbors. I think that it is a statement in our commitment to claim our city and that we want to have a better relationship with our neighbors.”
Stops on the walk to pray will include where Anthony Jones, Wilbur Thomas, Taquan McNeil, Steven Quinton Brannon, and Darryl Ford were murdered. A visit is also planned to the 200 block of Elmer Street where a man recently died from a fire that authorities determined to be set by arson.
First Baptist Church of Trenton Rev. Calvin Powell said he’s been trying to reach out to the victim’s families to have them come out and participate.
“We believe this would be the process of healing,” he said. “With us coming together, I think this is saying we too want a safe haven for our children. This needs to stop, it’s time to come together in peace.”
The “Unity Walk” will have three starting points: At 3:30 p.m., Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1140 Greenwood Ave., and the Islamic Center of Ewing, 685 Parkway Ave., will begin their walks. For the after-work crowd at 5 p.m., the walk at the Shiloh Baptist Church, 340 Reverend S. Howard Woodson Way, will commence.
The three groups will converge at the Gandhi Peace Garden, 223 E. Hanover S., at 6 p.m. That will be followed by a free dinner at the Trenton Masonic Temple, 100 Barracks St., at 7 p.m.
“We want to bring the families together very intentionally,” Mjumbe said of the dinner. “At the dinner, we will be sitting together as a community, and breaking bread together.”
At dinner, important service providers will be offered such as job training, crisis and grief counseling, legal assistance and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
With more than 40 sponsors already participating, Mjumbe said there is still an opportunity for businesses, organizational and congregational sponsorships.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.unitedmercerinterfaith.org.
Mjumbe has one lofty goal from the “Unity Walk.”
“Moving forward, we want to change the headlines,” he said. “We hope that eventually we’ll put the Trenton Homicide Watch page out of business.”