Community rallies against drugs, gangs

Published 6:55 pm Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Neither the threat of rain, nor technical difficulties could stop the participants in Ebony’s March on Saturday from taking a stand against drug-related crimes and violence.

At one point during Joseph Williams’ song, the musical recording started to skip and messed up the lyrics he was trying to perform. But he continued right along, thanks to the encouragement of an audience member.

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“Keep singing it! Don’t let the devil stop you!”

Saturday’s rally was about fighting a lot of different devils — the same devils of mindless violence and crime that took the life of Ebony Clarke five years ago.

Clarke, a 21-year-old mother, was fatally shot outside her Broughton Street apartment, and eventually passed away Aug. 10, 2008. She was the victim of a stray bullet that had been fired during an apparent street fight.

Every year since that time, Clarke’s mother Barbara Williford has organized a community march and rally to call for an end to gang violence and drug-related crime activity. Williford eventually adopted Clarke’s son, Ty, who is now 4 years old and was one of several children in attendance at Saturday’s rally.

“You don’t know how long you’ll have with your kids,” Williford said, at Saturday’s rally. “Cherish those moments as long as you can.”

The event kicked off with a march, starting from the Bainbridge Housing Authority on Sims Street, and continuing down Broughton Street to Willis Park. Although rain began to drizzle at approximately 10 a.m., the sky eventually cleared for the rest of the rally, which lasted until almost 1 p.m.

With the assistance of Bainbridge Police Department escorts, the marchers paraded down Broughton Street with the chant of “taking our community back from drugs and gangs!” ringing through the air.

The rally began shortly after the arrival of the marchers, as they then listened to different speakers and musical acts performing Christian-based songs.

One of the speakers, Minister Jimmy Thomas, said that he was violent and used drugs at times when he was a teenager, but now he tries to save young people.

“When I was young, I wanted to find the biggest, baddest dude around and fight him so I could prove how tough I was,” he said. “Now, I know that the devil is sending me the biggest, baddest demon that he can find, but he’s not going to stop me!”

Thomas said he is an example of how God can even use the most hardened of criminals for a good purpose.

“There’s nothing that’s too hard for God,” he said. “Don’t ever think that God can’t use you. If he can turn my life around, he can turn your life around.”

Minister Deloris Parker said that “no matter what we face today, there is nothing that God can’t handle.”

Evangelist Shauntray Sheddric quoted Maya Angelou, who once said, “Hate has caused many problems, and yet it has never solved any.”

Sheddric also noted that anybody can become a minister, whether they are ordained. She said a little encouragement to someone in need can go a long way.

“We all have a ministry that we can give,” she said. “Are you willing to do your part?”

Early in the rally, Bainbridge City Councilman Luther Conyers provided a proclamation to Williford. The proclamation was from the City of Bainbridge and Mayor Edward Reynolds, declaring Aug. 11 as a day of remembrance for Ebony Clarke.

Williford also made presentations of her own, publicly thanking the City of Bainbridge and Bainbridge Public Safety — and its chief, Eric Miller, for their support. Miller said he appreciated Williford’s volunteer spirit.

“We are just servants of the community; we can’t do anything without your help and letting us know when you need our help,” Miller said. “The more that we work together as partners, the bigger a difference we can make.”

Other speakers Saturday were Minister Leroy Sheddric and Linda Montgomery, who read a Scripture passage. Musical performers included gospel singer Narvareaz Colson, “Clogging for Jesus” dancer Skyla Taylor, youth singers and dancers “4-H Girls of Cairo” and praise dancers “Stars of Faith.”