Holy Ground March: Participation by all needed to reclaim Youngstown
By LINDA M. LINONIS
Participants in a Holy Ground March don’t anticipate an overnight miracle of fewer crimes and more revitalization but they believe a demonstration of unity and prayer will set the stage.
About 50 people walked for about 40 minutes Tuesday from the 3200 block of South Avenue, east on Philadelphia then south on Gibson and past Taft Elementary School, 730 E. Avondale Ave.
ACTION (Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods); S.A.A.N.D.I., (South Avenue Area Neighborhood Development Initiative), a partnership of four block watches, the business community, schools and faith-based organizations; and NOW Youngstown, orchestrated the walk.
Leaders were the Rev. Ed Noga, ACTION president, and the Rev. Joseph Fata, vice president. Two walkers carried an ACTION banner and led the way.
“By the goodness of the God we believe in, we take to the streets to help bring people together,” Father Noga said.
“The walk is symbolic,” Father Fata said. “It’s a beginning of what we hope to accomplish ... working on the South Avenue corridor, helping businesses and residents and making a difference.”
Wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “nonviolence or nonexistence,” Christine Silvestri, ACTION supporter, said the “South Avenue area is my neighborhood.” “There are many good neighbors and, unfortunately, a few bad apples,” she said.
Silvestri distributed ACTION response cards on which people can anonymously report illegal activities in their neighborhoods.
Bob Gray of the DLZ Block Watch said “walking brings attention on what needs done.”
Among walkers were Mayor John A. McNally and Councilman John R. Swierz of the 7th Ward. “You don’t know what it’s like until you get into neighborhoods,” McNally said. “Not everything you see is bad,” he said.
“Power of people will make changes as they work together,” he said.
Swierz said his ward has 13 block watches and two neighborhood associations.
“People have to be the eyes and ears in their neighborhoods for the police,” he said. “They have to buy into their own neighborhoods and not let one or two people drive them out.”
“We need more people to get involved. The more people we have, the more progress we’ll make,” said Victor D’Arce, president of Gibson Heights Block Watch. “We want Youngstown back. With help from churches, businesses, schools and everyone we can do it.
An “Increase the Peace” outreach rally followed at Taft school parking lot. NOW Youngstown, in cooperation with C.I.R.V. (Community Initiative to Reduce Violence) Project, began its 13 community-based outreach programs in June. Events continue to early September.
Other rallies this month are Tuesday at Kirwan Homes, 101 Jackson St., Campbell; July 22 at Borts Field, South Belle Vista Avenue; and July 29 at Arlington Heights, Wirt Street.