Pastor Derrick Johnson said he's looking for tangible change in Wilmington when it comes to one of the most violent years in recent memory.
Pastor Johnson of the Joshua Harvest Church, often known as "Pastor D", is one of the organizers of the March of the Unheard Voices which begins at noon on Saturday, October 31, 2020 at 30th and Market streets and continues on to Rodney Square, where a rally will be held.
"We're calling it the March of the Unheard Voices because there will be a number of voices that are not heard in families throughout the city of Wilmington and state, voices of people who were murdered. It will be a protest because many of their parents and people concerned about the violence feel they are not being heard."
The "unheard voices" comes from the fact organizers want this to be a completely silent march instead of the loud campaigns held prevalently in May and June. He thinks silence could be golden.
"Grip the city, cause people to think. No words, no chants, no nothing, just the silence. We expect that dynamic itself to have an impact. Once at Rodney Square, the program consists of a roll call of victims who have been shot and killed in Wilmington. There will be a memorial including several doves that will be released in the air. These doves will symbolize the peace that we want the families to experience. There will be the presentation of the packet to government officials with solutions, etc, then we will disperse."
Pastor D said he will be one of the speakers at the Rodney Square portion of Saturday's event, and he'll be joined by Republican Gubernatorial candidate Julianne Murray. He said he was troubled by a comment made by Governor John Carney in a WDEL debate Wednesday night.
"In the debate, the violence in Wilmington came up. Governor Carney, as factual as I can remember, [said] the reason the gun violence right now was not being dealt with is because the pandemic interrupted the program activities that he, or 'we' as he said, had going on the street. When part of the purpose of the march is for those of us who have been on the WAVE [Wilmington Anti-Violence Engagement] Team in frustration of not being able to get government--the mayor or governor--to meet with us. We were presenting a packet of everything being done on the street. The program he was talking about was being headed by former Wilmington Police Chief Cummings. I met with him regarding that program and how it would fit. The program that he is running, we've basically met one guy while the governor said he is basically over a program that is interceding with gangs. It is very frustrating as we risk our lives on the street and try to give people hope, to hear my governor say that something is taking place that I absolutely know is not taking place. While I wouldn't like that to be an indictment of the governor and his word, I don't want my community to be deceived or mislead on what is, or isn't taking place."
Pastor D said Murray's professional experience lines up as someone who could help in the battle to bring down crime rates in Wilmington, even if she represents a party that doesn't typically win city-wide elections.
"Julianne, being a criminal attorney, has been in touch with this dynamic for a long time. When we decided to do the march this year, we invited her to be a part of it because she's done so much work with families and individuals regarding shooting offenses. What happened was a number of white citizens from downstate decided that they wanted to be a part of the march because they are tired of the dynamic, or suggestion, that because they are Republican, or white, that they don't care what's going on in the Black community."
Murray spoke about the event during Wednesday's WDEL debate.
"I have been asked to be a part of this, and I am being viewed as someone who can be a unifier in this. I think leadership is unifying. I think Governor Carney and I actually agree that we have to be supporting law enforcement, but that partnership is important. I'm encouraged that I am being viewed as somebody who can bridge the community of Wilmington with law enforcement, and get us, a neighborhood at a time, back on track."
Pastor D said anyone wishing to take part in Saturday's event should plan to wear a mask and follow all relevant CDC guidelines including social distancing.