Increase the peace

Published 12:03 am Sunday, October 30, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Natchez residents and community leaders gathered on Martin Luther King Jr. Street Saturday afternoon to participate in the Walk Against Violence Rally for Peace. The rally was a community event that brought awareness to the violence in the City of Natchez.

Natchez — More than 100 people marched together holding signs and shouting “Stop the violence, increase the peace,” on Martin Luther King Jr. Street Saturday afternoon in the Walk Against Violence.

The walk was organized by the Natchez branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Women in the NAACP.

Nevelyn Chatman, the widow of Willie Lee Chatman who was murdered on McNeil Road Sept. 15, marched wearing a T-shirt with her husband’s picture on it.

“I know my husband is looking down on me knowing I am still here fighting for him,” she said.

Rosa Wilson said she believed the march was important to reaching young people.

“Our young black people are dying by the hands of our young black people,” she said. “We need to send the message to our young people and say, ‘We love you, but we want you to know it has to stop.’”

Nathaniel Sanders said he was marching to show he wanted young black men to make better choices and choose education over going to jail.

Mary Harris and her brother Gerome Anderson marched in honor of their brother James Christopher “Fluffy” Anderson, who was murdered in Natchez in 2005. Harris said the march was the first step in creating a movement for peace in Natchez.

“I’m hoping this will show there are ways to solve problems other than guns,” she said.

Brenda Strickland marched holding a framed picture of her son, Michael C. Payne, who was killed in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2004.

“If he could see me, he’d be saying ‘Go mom, go mom,” she said.

Strickland said the violence in Natchez is senseless.

“Everyone is grieving, we’re all grieving,” she said looking down at her son’s photograph.

Jacqueline Marsaw, one of the walk’s organizers and chairperson of WIN, said approximately 350 came out to the march to show their support, but not everyone walked.

Marsaw said she was amazed at how many people came to speak out against the violence in the city.

“I had people calling from New Orleans and all over asking me if they could come march,” she said.

City officials were also on hand at the march to show their support for the movement against violence.

Mayor Jake Middleton said he hopes the march got people’s attention.

“I think it’s a start to make our community realize and wake up to the fact that we do have a situation in Natchez that we need to pay attention to,” he said.

Middleton commended the young people that came out to march against the violence that is affecting their peers.

Fifteen-year-old LaDarrius Gaines said he has lost friends and family to violence.

“I’m marching to say, ‘Enough is enough,” he said.

Middleton said he wished there would have been more involvement from Natchez’s white community at the walk, and he hopes it will increase at future walks and events.

“It’s not about race,” he said. “It’s just about young people.”

Ward 2 Alderman James “Rickey” Gray came out to the march to show his support as a leader of the community.

Gray said the march was the first step toward ending violence. He said unity is the only way to achieve peace.

“We are all in this together,” he said. “It’s the only way we can have a seamless community. We all have to be together. United we stand, divided we fall.”