JOLIET – As people gathered Sunday in the parking lot of Sacred Heart Church for a peace rally walk, Joliet Township High School board member R. Dale Evans Sr. passed out window signs designed to warn possible perpetrators that residents will call the police if they are needed.
Evans encouraged people to hang the signs in their homes, to spread the word that those who commit violence are not their friends and will be reported.
“You have to stop the silence to stop the violence,” Evans said. “If it’s my kid [committing violence] I want you to tell. If it’s yours, I will tell.”
Evans was just one of many who came out Sunday despite the whipping wind and rain. They came from multiple churches and neighborhoods throughout Joliet, some carrying signs calling for an end to violence, shootings and hatred. A few carried photographs of loved ones who were victims of violence.
One of the event organizers, Pastor Glenda McCullum of Kingdom Builders International Worship & Training Center, told the crowd there have been 12 murders in Joliet since November. She read the names of victims aloud, and asked others to say the names of loved ones who had died.
McCullum gave a powerful and moving sermon before stepping off to walk the streets of Joliet in a show of solidarity and support for neighborhoods plagued by violence.
“I grew up just a few blocks from here,” McCullum said before the event was underway. “It breaks my heart to see what’s happened in the neighborhood.”
The peace walk is just one of many initiatives planned by Men of Valor 2 as part of the Stop the Gun Violence Epidemic program.
After walking the neighborhoods and talking with residents the previous day, McCullum heard loud and clear residents are afraid to come out of their homes. They seek leadership and are asking who can help them.
Event organizers, who included Pastor Clint Wilburn of Mount Moriah Baptist Church and Pastor Lonnie Posley of New Canaanland Christian Church, want to see more happen.
They want summer programs for youth and mentoring programs for both men and women. They want to beautify neighborhoods and get street lights fixed or installed. They have many things on tap to bring life back into the community, McCullum said.
McCullum said it’s important to have programs for youth or they will get into trouble. So leaders called for commitments from everyone present – police and fire personnel, politicians, community leaders and residents.
“Not only do we want to stop the violence, we want resources for our community,” McCullum said.
Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton said his department was there in a show of support.
“We are partnering with them to take a stance against violence together,” Benton said. “It’s great to see the turnout on such a miserable day.”
Steve and Monica Broadway came over from Mount Olive Church to join the peace walk. Hill had wrapped up services a little early so congregants could make the event.
Steve Broadway said he was walking for his grandfather, who moved from the South to live in the area; his father, who grew up here; and his kids, who want to live here in peace.
“I am marching for everybody and for those who can’t march,” Broadway said. “Maybe this will open some eyes and make some changes.”
Organizers know it will take more than a walk to turn things around, said McCullum, so they are adding prayer to their efforts and walking hand in hand with God.
“We are taking back our streets,” McCullum chanted as they headed out to walk. “We are taking back our children, we are taking back our neighborhoods, we are taking back our city, our state and our nation.”