Unification News for September 2003

Washington DC Rally: God is Our Parent: Stop the Violence

by Rev. McCarthy

Want to know how to become the center of attention? Find the absolutely hottest issue in your city, stand up in the most public setting and scream: "We can fix it!" It reminds me of the state leader’s meeting we had years ago with Father. He would always give us advice about how to witness effectively: "Go buy a horn and every night at midnight go through your neighborhood blowing the horn as loud as you can. Do it for a week and then after that go visit everyone door to door. When each person sees you they will shout at you for making so much noise but you will be famous and they will become curious about why you would do such a thing. .. then they will become your friend!"

In other words, before people will listen to you, you’ve got to get their attention.

On August 21st, we got Washington’s attention. It was rally day. Stop the Violence; Bring the Peace! It was the fruition of the inspiration given birth a mere two weeks before when the Holy Spirit did cause Pastors Gregg Thomas and Ronald Brown to challenge ACLC to greater and more courageous action. We answered the call.

Everyone worked so hard in all areas of outreach. It was great to hit the streets again with a handful of leaflets, meeting the people of the community and urging them to turn out for the rally. We visited city officials, police leaders, ministers and social activists. We were able to learn so much more about the causes of violence, especially gang violence in our city. The problem is clear: young people need love and affirmation. They were joining gangs in order to feel what they couldn’t feel in their own home: the sense of belonging and acceptance.

On the morning of the event, preparations started early in the day for the noontime rally. The Japanese missionaries were busy making hand-out flags that said: "Stop the Violence"-"Bring the Peace" and "God is our Parent." Rev. Randy Francis, Rev. Kazuaki Ogawa and church staff were busy setting up the sound system, banners and chairs outside in the front of the church. The minister outreach team, headed by Rev. Debbie Taylor, was busy making last minute calls. Rev. Adrian Bayo, the rally coordinator was running in seven or eight directions trying to finalize the program and deciding who would speak and in what sequence.

With the support of Rev. Phillip Schanker and Sheila Song at the Headquarters’ public affairs office, press releases were distributed to all the major media outlets in the city. The response from the press was overwhelming. By 11:30 am, the front of the church was a beehive of media activity. Camera crews from every station in town were setting up equipment, running up their satellite dishes for the 12:00 noon live feed. Reporters were lining up for interviews with our key clergy spokesmen. What a scene!

The rally began promptly at noon with songs led by Ms. Jayne Turconi. We had over a hundred participants, including Service for Peace youth and CARP members. Speakers included city officials led by ANC neighborhood commissioner (and our sister) Minister Chi Maruuso. Also speaking were inspired ACLC ministers, Bishop C. Phillip Johnson, Rev. Ron Brown, Rev. Gregg Thomas (Rev. Thomas also brought two silver medalist from our ACLC Youth Basketball team) and Bishop Carlos E. Harvin. Rev. Joseph Taylor spoke powerfully about the basketball program as a real hope to build the character of youth and to lead them away from drugs and violence. ACLC now has 12 teams ready to participate in the upcoming city wide tournament. Rev. Adrian Bayo did a masterful job as the MC.

After the speaking portion of the program, we lined up to begin our march into the neighborhood where some of the recent gang slayings took place. With bullhorns blaring and drums pounding, we became one loud voice beseeching all who could hear: GOD IS OUR PARENT -- STOP THE VIOLENCE -- BRING THE PEACE!!!!.

The people along the streets and poking their heads out of apartment windows were mighty glad to see us. They started to applaud where ever we went. One man shouted from his 5th floor window, "What took you so long?"

We paused at a makeshift shrine at the site of a recent slaying. Bishop Johnson led us all in a powerful prayer for unity and healing. Everyone was deeply moved.

We were all over the news that day. Noontime live feed on channel 4, 7, 9 and the Latino channel Univision. We were on again at 5:00pm and 6:00pm. Our minister’s cell phones started ringing off the hook with calls from their church members who reported seeing them on TV. They were so excited.

After the march returned to the church, we went into executive session with the top ACLC leaders. We discussed what would be our next course of action. Our next project will be to bring the leaders of the gangs themselves to the table and broker a truce. We have already established connections that will help to bring that about. We will also be working to establish mentoring programs to go along with our youth basketball program to provide positive activities for youth who may not be inclined to sports.

After the meeting broke and we were saying our good-byes, my cell phone rang. It was News Channel Eight. They were very upset that they had not received a press release and missed the big event. "Can you make it up to use by coming on our evening News Talk program from 8:00pm to 8:30pm?" the desperate news guy said.

"Sure. . .I think we can squeeze you in." I said.

Bishop Johnson, our ACLC co-chairman, handled the interview wonderfully. The host of the show was completely supportive and positive about the vision of ACLC. What a day! As Rev. Jeong Phyo Hong, Bishop Johnson and I left the studio, we all felt that it had been an amazing day of victory.

I turned to Bishop Johnson and slapped him on the back. I said, "Bishop, I bet when you woke up this morning, you had no idea that today you would become a media superstar!!"

He laughed and shook his head, "Kevin, I surely did not… surely did not!!"

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