“It’s a new day!” nearly 50 men shouted in unison. People gathered in the lobby of the Liacouras Center last Monday, Oct. 15, to hear several speakers discuss an action plan for the “survival of the African-American community.”
As the speakers took their turns at the podium, those behind them and in the audience stood and nodded their heads in agreement, one sporting a “Peace, No Guns” T-shirt.
The chairman of the Philadelphia Millions More Movement, Kenny Gamble, came up to the front.
“Talking is not going to get it done, it’s going to take action,” he said, as the audience applauded.
People assembled to promote what is becoming a very publicized and energized objective event called “10,000 Men: A Call to Action,” supported by the PMMM. The cause has grown to include some very prominent names and organizations.
“When men stand together, things change,” Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson said. “Women have always been out there, the men have never stood up. I think it’s time for men to stand up.”
Johnson has been under fire the last few months as the murder count in Philadelphia steadily climbs. Some citizens say he is not doing enough to stop the violence. They want more protection on the streets.
But Johnson supports a long term approach that will solve the problem: education and awareness. From this ideology sprouted his partnership with 10,000 Men.
Charlie Mack, creator of the event, said it was inspired by the Million Man March that occurred in Washington, D.C. in October 1995. He made a point to explain, though, that 10,000 Men was not a rally or a show. He said that participators come for a commitment.
The event’s Web site describes it as a “call to action” to reduce the “senseless violence” within the black community.
“Gun violence in particular,” said Norm Bond, director of communications for the event. He described this as a “complicated issue,” explaining that there are several
factors to it.
“[It is a] well-funded machine that keeps guns readily available,” Bond said.
He also added that most proposals meant to enforce gun control and regulation are strongly opposed. Bond also sees the prevalent apathy among the community as a major problem.
“People are just accepting the situation,” he said.
The purpose of the event, therefore, is to create a “core group of organized men that care about the issue,” Bond explained.
The plan is to take that group and help them to become educated.
Consequently, those men will bring the information back to their communities.
Bond listed some of the many goals they have set out to accomplish: increase volunteerism, better utilize resources, develop solutions to address gun violence, create
jobs and impact a lot of cultural issues.
This design for attack on the “monster called murder,” as Mack called it, needs determined and dedicated members.
“This is serious work,” Bond said.
He also explained that the participators’ roles are like peace makers, who learn to deal with conflict resolution and develop leadership skills. They will become proactive and be able to recognize criminal behaviors.
However, Bond said it is not intended to be a vigilante group or a posse.
“This is not going to be a confrontational group,” he said, also adding that the purpose is not to do the job of the police officers.
Instead, the peace makers will act as visible deterrents in their own communities. Just by being present, Bond said that they will act as strong, positive male symbols.
Mack explained that the event will encourage people to get together, mobilize in a peaceful manner and build each other up.
“We don’t love each other,” he said. “Black folks don’t respect each other.”
Johnson also foresees an increased desire for togetherness and unity. He described their goal as “stopping the bleeding in the community.”
As for those who resist the cause, Mack prays for them.
“I used to be rebellious, bullheaded, stubborn,” he said. “When you’re that way, you can’t grow.”
Bond explained that the organization is not trying to motivate those who don’t want to participate.
“This is a self-motivation project, a volunteer effort,” he said.
With 85 percent of the homicides in Philadelphia pertaining solely to the African-American community, Bond said he does not understand how one cannot be moved to act.
“If you pull back from this community and look at Philadelphia through the eyes of the nation [and] look at what’s happening, that’s what should motivate you,” he said.
Johnson stated that as of Jan. 1, 1998, Philadelphia has lost 2,892 African-American people to homicide.
“If that doesn’t motivate him, there’s not much I can do,” he said.
Mack also calls on all the women and children to help challenge the men in their lives to be a part of the solution.
Estherlean Edmonds attended the rally last Monday as a representative of the Christian Stronghold Baptist Church.
She saw 10,000 Men as a way to bring men together to fight a huge problem.
She believes that a woman’s position in the cause is to support and provide
“[We] pray for them, believe in them and feel secure by them coming together,” she said.
Mack described the event as a support mechanism for those who want to help. Johnson agreed saying that the only qualification is the desire to be involved.
“Look at the facts,” Bond said. “Even if you’re skeptical, come look at the information and then make your decision.”
Sarah Sanders can be reached at