Over a dozen people congregated on a sunny but chilly Wednesday afternoon to commemorate the 38th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death and to hold an anti-youth violence vigil.
The rally, organized by the local alumni chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s oldest Greek-letter black fraternity, was designed to allow people to speak out against youth violence in local communities and around the nation.
Dakibu Muley, an organizer for the event and an alumnus of Alpha Phi Alpha, said the purpose of this event, themed “Every One, Life Matters,” was to “bring black professionals to try to come collectively to fight the violence that is affecting 13- to 24-year-olds.”
Muley introduced the keynote speaker for the vigil, James Lewis III, who works with Robinson at the Yale Child Study Center as the director of training and curriculum for the program.
Lewis stressed the importance of recognizing that youth violence is a problem in the city, despite improvements in public safety.
“The focus of today’s event is that although crime is down in New Haven, the amount that is still going on in our community is still more than we can afford,” Lewis said.
Akobe Sandy ’01, another speaker at the rally and a member of the Yale chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, said he hoped the rally was a wake-up call.
“They have to show that it is a pressing issue,” Sandy said. “You have to constantly be thinking about it, not just when an incident occurs.”
Sandy added that victims of youth violence include more than those who have been attacked, reminding people about convicted juvenile offenders who slip between the cracks.
“There are two sets of victims, the ones who are actually victimized — but there are also the ones who we lose within the justice system,” he said.
At one of the more poignant moments of the rally, Brian K. Perkins, a professor at Southern Connecticut State University, did a dramatic reading of the opening of King’s final speech, using King’s gestures and intonation, as the crowed replied with affirmations of “I hear you!”
One participant, Mishonda Jones, was carrying her 3-year-old daughter in her arms.
Jones stressed the importance of coming to an event held on the anniversary of King’s assassination, adding that there is still room for progress.
“We’re having the same struggles that we had 38 years ago,” said Jones, who is an alumna of Alpha Phi Alpha’s sister sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha.
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