Murder Awareness Day observed

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 5, 2004

There was lots of grief and a flood of tears on Sunday afternoon in front of City Hall. About 25 officials and family members of murder victims gathered at 2 p.m. on the sidewalk next to a street light bedecked with a purple ribbon – symbol of National Murder Awareness Day .


of the day began in Selma, then was added to the state calendar, and finally to the national, by act of Congress after local activist Barbara Brown and a delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. several years ago to lobby Congress successfully for its inclusion. Brown, who serves as public relations director for Citizens Against Violence, was not able to attend yesterday’s gathering because of scheduled surgery.

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Susan Keith, community justice coordinator with the Dallas County District

Attorney’s Office, served as emcee of the event.

About a dozens persons spoke.

Leading themes were the need for individuals and families to take action in their own homes and neighborhoods,

the need for citizens and law enforcement agencies

to work more closely together,

not only in solving murders but in a broad array of preventive measures.

Many speakers testified to their faith in a sovereign and loving God, a faith which has helped those parents, siblings, children and friends to survive the agonizing loss of loved ones through violence.

Several speakers included concern as well for perpetrators of violence, and appealed for outreach to create in young people the desire for education, a basic respect for life – their own and others, a love for their neighbor.

As the murder rate in Selma-Dallas County continues at a very high level for a small community, such gatherings provide an outlet for the grief of victims’ families, and an opportunity to speak a word to city and county officials and law enforcement representatives, and for representatives of officialdom to speak as well of their concern and what they’re doing about

the situation.

District Attorney Ed Green recalled the words of a family member of a murder victim whose assailant was tried, convicted and imprisoned, &uot;This a very sad day. There’s one in the grave and one in the penitentiary.&uot; He called for a united front in the community to meet the problem head-on at the front end, working constantly on prevention.

Selma Police Detective Clinton Peeples and his wife, Ruby, whose son, Clinton Jr., was recently killed, prayed

and sang. Peeples prayed that God would reveal the one who had taken his son’s life, while she uttered

a vocal cry from her heart to God asking why and pleading for comfort and justice.

District Judge Nathaniel Walker, who has been on the bench for 17 1/2 years, spoke of successful efforts in Boston and New York City over a decade’s time to vastly decrease the number of murders through law enforcement and education.

Circuit Judge Tommy Jones stressed the importance of the impact of the home.

Chief Robert Green, saying that some in the community have accepted prison as a rite of passage, urged the community to maintain an ever higher

level of vigilance.

City Attorney Jimmy Nunn, speaking on behalf of Mayor James Perkins Jr. who was unable to be present, called on those gathered to make God the Lord of their lives and to keep

God in their prayers.

Louise Soles, whose son Arthur was recently killed in Lowndes County, expressed concern that nothing seemed to happening in regards to the investigation. &uot;I don’t know what to say,&uot; she said. Several members of her family were present. &uot;I pray that God will show me who took his life,&uot; she said.

Deloris Smith, sister of Willie Johnson who was murdered at Thanksgiving 1998, was pleased that the three convicted of his murder were in prison. One received the death sentence. &uot;My brother would give you the shirt off his back,&uot; she said, &uot;and he was helping the three who killed him.&uot; Closure does not come quickly, she said. &uot;I have to keep falling on my knees to pray.&uot;

Nicholas White, 11, who had lost his brother recently, was asked to speak but could not.

Several then commented on the impact of murder on the siblings of victims, including Fay Lockhart

who lost her son a number of years ago. She spoke strongly

about the need of survivors to stand with and for one another – crossing racial and all other lines.

County Commissioner Kim Ballard said love is the key. God always has a plan, he said, but sometimes it’s difficult to see it at the time a loved one is taken away – but it eventually becomes, clear, he said.

Community activist Pat Page, who had lost a son and a nephew, spoke of her efforts personally to go out to the troublemakers in her community and to confront them, at the same time showing concern for the troublemakers. She expressed dissatisfaction with law-enforcement efforts in her neighborhood and, like others, spoke of the importance of being out in the neighborhoods at night in the places

and with the people who are committing the crimes – even at the risk of one’s own life.

The observance was concluded with prayer by the Rev. Ernest Wright at 3 p.m.