Walk For Peace Challenge

BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer

SEMINOLE — The violent outbreaks in Ferguson, Mo., and around the world inspired local motivational radio host Edie Darling to hold a “Walk For Peace Challenge” last Sat., Aug. 30 at Lake Seminole Park. Over 50 adults and children showed up to participate in the two-mile walk for peace.

“If something were to happen here in our community that’s negative, I want to be able to come together at a roundtable of peace no matter what has happened,” said Darling.

Sluggish authority dialogue coupled with military tactics leveled against a predominately African-American community in Ferguson because of the shooting of an 18-year-old black male teenager by a white police officer has proven to be the national template for ineffectiveness in handling such a situation. Darling saw the march as a way to get the ball rolling in being a proactive, as opposed to being a reactive, community.

“Look at what came out today; people of every culture, every creed, every race and every denomination. There is no separatism when we are a part of the human race,” Darling preached.

“I enjoyed meeting and being around new people,” said Isaiah, a10-year-old student of Jamerson Elementary.

“It was a lot of good and positive vibes out there,” said Jim who was accompanied by his wife and child.

Surveying the diverse stream of humanity crossing the lawn and returning from the walk, it’s impossible to think that 45 years ago such an altruistic activity could have been met with community outrage.

“The community’s getting together, whether it be black, white, young, old, north or south,” said march participant Scott Whatley. “What it means for me now is that it (the march) will catapult us into the future to basically help other communities become aware of what we’re doing here in Pinellas County.”

March participant Tyler Bentley talked about how everyone on the march spoke positive in light of the negatively going on in much of the world. “When you’re around like-minded people who are trying to do something good for the community, you can’t help but jump on and ask ‘How can I help?’”

“We’re like a family,” said marcher Mark Sawyer. “You are who you surround yourself with,” he emphasized.

Marcher Andrew Schachter acknowledged in his comments that people are not born with feelings of hate, prejudice or bigotry.

“It’s 7.25 billion people on the planet and we all have differences. But bigotry and hatred … it’s a learned behavior, and this is an opportunity to come together as just people and start unlearning that behavior and stop teaching that to each other, to our peers and to our children. I want to live in a world where those differences don’t exist anymore.”

Officers William Lawson and Maurice McCloud were on hand to lend a helping hand at the event. McCloud addressed the participants as they rested after the walk and stressed that the EMS, firemen and officers like to know that people appreciate them for the majority of good service they provide to communities.

“They like to know that you love them and you need them because we go home with all those burdens on our back to our families,” said McCloud. “As much as we help others, we need help too. So when you see us in uniform, give us a hug too!”

Darling saw the event as a starting point for galvanizing a variety of communities to meet, greet, and eventually work together to improve human relationships across the board in the Tampa Bay area.

To reach Allen Buchanan, email abuchanan@theweeklychallenger.com

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