Mother’s rally seeks better future

Published 7:29 pm Friday, August 13, 2010

A rally against drugs and gang activity held in Willis Park on Wednesday was not meant to dwell on the dead but instead, to inspire the living, said organizer Barbara Williford.

Williford’s late daughter, Ebony Clarke, was an innocent victim in a street fight that saw an assailant shoot her fatally and injure another man. Prosecutors alleged the August 2008 incident was related to rival gang members; although a suspect in the shooting was set free after a jury was unable to render a verdict in his murder trial.

But Wednesday’s rally, although it bore Clarke’s name and referenced her memory, focused on the character of Bainbridge two years after her death. Led by Pastor Lester Hayes of New Freedom Christian Ministry, Williford and supporters marched west down Broughton Street to Willis Park, chanting “We say no—to drugs and gang activity.”

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Although the small crowd gathered in the park was less than she’d hoped would come for the second annual rally, Williford was confident the marchers’ message was heard by people who needed to hear it. The goal, she and others who spoke at the rally said, is to foster awareness of how drugs and gangs are still affecting the quality of life in Bainbridge.

Mayor Edward Reynolds said city leaders have been aware of the drug problem in Bainbridge and are trying out potential solutions, including creation of the VIPER community police team this past year. The VIPER team is comprised of Public Safety officers who focus solely on working on specific neighborhoods where drug activity and other crimes are concentrated, said Officer Demetric Stubbs. Stubbs said the VIPER team’s members aim to work with citizens by listening to their concerns and finding ways to make people feel safer.

Emmanuel Bryant, a rapper who is behind Fearless Faith Ministries, performed three original songs meant to inspire rally attendees. The lyrics of one of his new songs, “Beyond the Colors,” contains a dedication to Clarke, who left behind an infant son her mother is now caring for.