And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city. (Joshua 6:16)
Monday, July 12, 2010, was a historic day in the life of our city as I led 300 people to march around City Hall seven times at the noon hour. That’s a lot of people concerned about injustice and how a 15-year-old unarmed boy was beaten brutally by a policeman while several other officers watched.
The boy had committed no crime and was not resisting arrest, according to the prosecutor, but he was beaten anyway. I knew I had to march because I wanted the mayor, the public safety director and the police chief to know that even though I know that by and large, our police officers are good and decent, we must not let a few rogue officers spoil the honorable work that is being done.
So I marched for the city to clean up its act. I marched for respect, rights and justice. People took off work or took their lunch hour to march for a city that would respect us and protect us.
That’s why I was there. I would do it again in a heartbeat, because we should stand up for justice and not passively allow our children, women or men to be disrespected.
Frederick Douglass said: “Power concedes nothing without demand.” I know that’s right, so I would march again, but I think the next march should have a different focus.
Saturday night, July 17, 2010, helped me to see the focus of the next march. Ten teenagers were shot in downtown Indianapolis during the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration. These shootings have nothing to do with Black Expo, but they exposed our greatest problem: ourselves.
We can blame others all we want to, but as Jesse Jackson said many years ago: “Nobody will save us from us but us.” It only takes a few bad apples to spoil the barrel is what my grandmother used to say. Whether it’s cops or our children, we need to address the problem now before a flame becomes a fire.
We need to make a clarion call to parents to take charge of their children, how they dress, where they go, who they go with and the hours they keep. Curfew needs to come from the home first. Respect and discipline begins at home.
These unfortunate incidents of a few only spoil the overwhelming evidence that most of our children are decent and respectful. Most of our parents are the same. But it is difficult for single women to raise boys by themselves. Herein lies the problem: fatherlessness. It’s a vicious cycle. Babies having babies leaving mothers to raise boys who raise hell because they have no fathers. They are mad at the dad they never had. And too often, their mothers are helpless.
One thing for sure, we have to stop pointing fingers at everyone else and start taking inventory in our own homes. This does not excuse the actions of a few brutal policemen and it does not make injustice disappear. It simply calls all of us to join the next march.
The next march ought to be about us: our families, our parents and our children. Respect yourself. As the Staple singers sang many years ago: “Respect yourself. If you don’t respect yourself, ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot. Respect yourself.”
Are you ready to march? Don’t wait till the battle is over, shout now. For the Lord has given you the city.
You may write to Dr. Benjamin at Bishop@lightoftheworld.org or at Light of the World Christian Church, 4646 N. Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, IN 46228. My book, It’s All in Your Mind, can be ordered at www.tombenjamin.com or by calling 1-800-847-9695.