A total of 10,000 men in Philadelphia were summoned to the Liacouras Center over the weekend.
The aim was to rally black men – not only in mass, but in unity – and forcefully take the streets of Philadelphia back from the grasp of violence.
The rallying cry was that it is was “a new day.”
With a line of people that wrapped from the front entrance of Liacouras Center to the Draught Horse, many men and women also believed it would be a new day.
Every speaker at the event reminded those watching that it was a new day.
“It’s a new day!” shouted Philadelphia Mayor John Street.
“It’s a new day!” echoed U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.
“It’s a new day!” screamed mayoral candidate Michael Nutter.
And Pennsylvania State Rep. Dwight Evans.
And even U.S. Rep. Bob Brady – who is white – joined in exclaiming “It’s a new day!”
But at the end of the four-hour rally, it had the feeling of the end of a day.
Not a new day. Just a day.
As much as I wanted this event to stimulate the masses of people gathered, it didn’t. The people were anxious and willing to be renewed and to attack the senseless murders that have occurred in the city, including the 406 killings that happened in 2006. But it didn’t happen. Not yet.
Maybe that hinges on the turnout for the subsequent orientation sessions that are scheduled for the next two weeks at area high schools. But that didn’t happen in the Liacouras Center.
The people were roused early on Sunday. There were signs that the astounding number of black men slaughtered in Philadelphia wouldn’t continue to grow as it has.
At the very outset of the event, everyone held hands. 10,000 men in Philadelphia, showing solidarity and a willingness to shed their tough images, embraced others in their own black neighborhoods.
That tough image has helped the number 2,889 gain significance.
That’s how many black men under the age of 34 have been lost to violence in the last 10 years.
This rally had the chance to not only capture and captivate, but had the rare opportunity to move people to actually act and do something about the violence.
Instead, the event moved people to the exits.
Many people filed to the exits hours before the event had reached its conclusion. There was too much talking at this call to action.
This event may have produced a devoted remnant who will bring about a serious change in the city. They might turn Philadelphia back into a city of love. But all this session gave me was the disheartening and disappointing feeling of sitting through a glorified lecture. I came away from the assembly well aware of the fact that it was supposed to be a new day.
But at the end of this new day will there be a sustained and meaningful movement stemming from this event? Or will we go back to counting the number of chalk outlines in the city?
I hope the former comes to fruition.
Terrance McNeil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org