BY CHARLENE MUHAMMAD
THE FINAL CALL
COMPTON, CALIF. – A multi-ethnic, multi-faith coalition recently gathered for the 10th United in Peace Foundation’s Peace Ride in honor of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Hundreds of motorcyclists and low riders participated in their largest ride ever on July 28.
Decked in orange, grey and classic black leather, they also held their first multi-city ride in honor of the thousands of families whose children have been gunned down in senseless violence throughout the country.
The grassroots coalition has taken a unique approach to issues of race and justice that have resurfaced since a jury acquitted Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, on July 13.
Their aim is to reinvigorate the spirit of the 1995 Million Man March, wherein more than two million Black men responded to the call of Minister Louis Farrakhan to meet him in Washington, D.C. and pledge to become better fathers, husband, and stewards of their communities.
‘Blessing and a sign’
“The 10th Peace Ride was actually a blessing and a sign from Almighty God Allah that what we’re doing is approved by Him because it’s growing,” said Student Minister Tony Muhammad, Western Region representative for Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam and founder of the Peace Rides. “We’ve been consistent and it gets bigger every time we have done this and it shows that we’re filling a void, which is the aspiration of the people is peace but they just don’t know how to bring it into existence,” he added.
Congresswoman Janice Hahn stated, “As much as I’m outraged over Trayvon Martin, I think what this ride does today and what this rally does today is say we ought to be outraged if any of our young people are killed.
The Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, founder of the World Literacy Crusade, co-founded the Peace Rides and along with Dr. Hanan Islam of the American Health and Education Clinics, POWER 106 FM’s Big Boy, sponsor the rides. Pastor Claude Powe, head of the Called to Destiny Ministry, members of various motorcycle clubs of Southern California and the National Low Riders Association, are heavily involved in the peace effort. Powe also heads a network of motorcycle clubs from Central to Southern California.
“I think this is just the beginning of a mass movement. We’ve only scratched the surface,” said Pastor Powe.
Ready for peace
The riders waved UPFest flags, and, the roaring of their engines, communicated silently by pumping the Black power fist and peace sign with the scores of people who had run out of their homes and businesses, and lined the streets to videotape the procession.
Residents took pictures and many just waved in awe. One young man rode his bike as fast as he could pedal, keeping his eyes on the road while determined to videotape the motorbikes with his cell phone. The smiles on faces from young to old were priceless.
“L.A. is ready for peace! That’s right. Thank ya’ll,” an elderly woman yelled at the caravan when they turned the corner at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall. Mothers and children watched from behind thick black security gates and families waved from high on balconies.
The approximate five-mile procession paraded from Magic Johnson Park in Compton, through Inglewood, the Crenshaw District and South L.A. before rejoining thousands at the park for a free festival and concert. Festival participants were reciting the Million Man March Pledge as the caravan rolled into the park. “I felt like I was at the Million Man March. It was powerful,” an unidentified young woman said.
In a poignant moment during the program, activist Vicky Lindsey of Project Cry No More and the Southern California Cease Fire Committee, asked everyone who had a child that was killed by gang or gun violence to gather in front of the stage.
Within less than five minutes, the area could hold no more. While they gathered and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” played from loud speakers, a video slideshow depicted photos of many loved ones gone but not forgotten.
“Get involved by choice and not by force because this happens from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hood and it ain’t all good when you feel this. But guess what, it don’t stop me from fighting because I believe! I believe that the violence can stop,” Lindsey said.
Next year, organizers plan to take at least 50,000 bikers and 5,000 cars in a nationwide Peace Ride.
Compton’s Mayor Aja Brown, Carson Councilman Mike Gipson, and a field deputy for L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson and Sheriff Leroy Baca also presented UPFest with proclamations for their efforts towards peace.
The peacemakers in turn presented the various city and law enforcement leaders with orange-framed awards for their long-standing work and for supporting the community’s call for peace.
In another jaw-dropping moment, a local businessman donated $25,000 to the UPFest Foundation and pledged another $10,000 before he left the stage.
The next Peace Ride is scheduled on Aug. 25.