The Sons (Daughters) Of Rizpah
There is a story of a woman whose sons were murdered in retribution for the errors of someone else. The woman would not leave the bodies of her sons until they had received an honorable burial from King David. 2 Sam. 21:10-14.
A few years ago, "The Washington Post" gave an erroneous report that sneakers were thrown across telephone posts to signify the taking of another life by gang members. These and other myths permeate mainstream society about our communities and what is "really" going on. The fact of the matter was the challenge for our young people was to get the sneakers up that high. The weight of the two sneakers tied together gave it the leverage to reach that high. Making fun with little. This is normal for urban communities that don't have as much as others. We have allowed others to speak to who we are. In the meantime, we have not addressed the needs of our communities in a spiritual, life changing way. New Beginnings Ministries - Ujima exists to address this issue and others like them.
The violence in our communities is real and we must make a tangible, daily, consistent difference in the lives of our communities. Not just when the media is there or it is a convenient issue to address but every day, all day, forever more. We will make a difference in the world that cannot be erased.
We will bring comfort to grieving families, ongoing support groups and activities for youth, and referrals to those agencies that can and will help. A visible presence in the lives of those who are in so much need. We cannot ignore or attempt to address a spiritual need with a secular means - it has not worked.
Join me in organizing "The Sons of Rizpah" throughout inner cities everywhere. We will not let go until all of our people know that we can do nothing without each other. We must help our young people and minister to their families in a real, tangible way. The blood of our youth is crying from the streets of the cities.
Contact me at
Three Generations of Women Remember Slain D.C. Youth
Robert Cook, Denita Blakey, Anita Harris, and Rev. Wanda Cleckley of New Beginnings Ministries-Ujima Center in Southeast prepare for a candle light vigil in honor of Antonio Blakey. (Photo by Maurice Fitzgerald)
Antonio Blakey, 18, was shot to death on May 1, 2004 on Robinson Street in Southeast.
By Bruce Branch
WI Contributing Writer
Friday, May 6, 2005; Page 20
As Ballou Senior High School was preparing to bury 17-year-old Lavelle “Mar Mar” Kendall Jones (yet another victim of youth violence), New Beginnings Ministry pastor Wanda Cleckley quietly held a candlelight vigil and memorial service on a rainy Friday, April 28, at the UJIMA Center in Southeast to honor one of his fallen classmates Antonio L. Blakey, who was shot and killed exactly one year ago.
It is a ritual that clergy and community leaders say is repeated far too often in the District where the body count of youth has reached 26 and counting in the past 17 months.
Each of the ceremonies has become eerily similar. A preacher talks about the need for peace, community leaders gather to decry the violence, and a mother weeps.
In the case of Blakey, three-generations of women (his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother) gathered together at the small storefront church along a drug-infested corridor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue with a group of family and friends to celebrate his life.
Cleckley has invited anyone who wants to celebrate the loss of a loved one, but this event primarily attracts Blakely’s friends and family. Shortly after the candles are lit and the small gathering begins to disperse, Cleckey says she will return on Sunday to hold another prayer vigil in front of Blakey’s house in Barry Farms. “They are not going to come to church,” she says. “We have to take the church and healing to them.”
Blakey was shot to death on nearby Robinson Street. All but one of his alleged assailants have been caught. In that regard, his family is lucky. The public perception is that too many homicide suspects go free in Washington.
“There is one [suspect] still out there,” Antonio’s grandmother, Denita Blakey, said. “My daughter is holding strong, but we miss him very much. We need more law enforcement on the streets. Gang wars are nothing to play with.”
Antonio Blakey was killed on May 1, 2004, just 13 days shy of his 19th birthday. By all accounts he was not the type of young man who should have met his end on the streets in a puddle of blood.
“It’s like an up-and-down thing,” Antonio’s mother, Juanita, said. “I’m getting married on his birthday to keep him there in my heart. I don’t really want to know why [he was killed]. I just know the city hasn’t done all it can, but the detective on the case has kept me informed and I’m thankful to her for that.”
She added that she cannot dwell on the loss too much. “I have three other children I have to think about. I have to keep moving on. I try to keep my spirits up,” she said.
Blakey’s great-grandmother Anita Harris said the loss “has had a great impact” on the family. “I lost one of my sons earlier. I can’t take too much more of this. They need to catch these drug dealers.”
Juanita Blakey’s fiance, Robert Cook, who was very close to Antonio said it has been a difficult time for the entire family. “It’s been very hard because we miss him,” Cook said. “We need stricter laws. I’m not saying we need the death penalty, but we need a stronger curfew for young people.”
Maurice Blakey, 13, said the loss of his older brother has kept him angry. “I miss my brother. I wish he was still here. My attitude has changed. I have a lot of anger.”
Anthony Blakey, 16, called death “something [young people] in D.C. have come to accept. I don’t have a fear of it.”
Ballou is among the schools that have been hit the hardest, which is why Cleckley has joined a growing number of religious leaders and grassroots community leaders who want to do something about it. “We have to do something. A lot of mothers are worried,” she said.
Jones, who played football at P. J. Harris Education Center and was a popular figure around Savannah Terrace, Wingate and Bald Eagle Recreational Center, would have been 18 on May 9.
“How can you have a baseball team in Washington when so many children are being killed?” asked Joyce Williams, Jones’ aunt. “They need to get the drug dealers off the streets and police on the streets so D.C. can be safe again.”
Cleckley agrees: “There are too many mothers in mourning. My ministry has had to go to be a part of far too many funerals. We have to do something.”
May 16, 2005
© Copyright 2005 The Washington Informer
Every day of every week from Compton, California to Barry Farms, Washington, D.C., Brooklyn,
New York, Miami, Florida, inner city everywhere
we are burying our young
people on the streets due to senseless murder and unheard of violence.
This violence causes nightmares and keeps families praying and fearful that they would be next;
We can blame
any aspect of human behavior we would like but bottom line is selfishness, disobedience and self will govern our thoughts minds and behavior however they play themselves out in symptoms be it murder, rape, suicide, abuse, etc.
God still hears the prayers of His creations
We cannot not stop speaking, praying, reaching for the lives of our people to make a difference.
We must return to our first Love "Our God, Our Self, Our People"
As long as we are In the World we are the Light of the World!
We are the ones who long to do the right thing for the right reason - real simple!
If My People Who Are Called By My Name Will Humble Themselves and pray, and seek my face, turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and heal their lands
THIS IS IN MEMORIAL OF OUR LOVED ONE -
ANTONIO LAMONT BLAKEY
Tonio, we love you and we will always miss you.
We pray for the soldiers who were lost and all those we have lost this past year to violence. Our prayers are with you all.
To the families of all the slain young men and women of the District of Columbia and throughout urban cities in the United States of America:
We would like for you to know that we love you and are praying for you as you grieve the loss of your child and/or loved one. It does not matter the circumstances around your loss, we understand clearly that lost is lost. We pray that God will strengthen you as He guides us to solutions and healing through it all. Know that we are on the wall for our city, for our community, for this nation and for our people and specifically we are praying for you and your families.
In the Spirit of Love - Rev. Wanda D. Cleckley
We miss you T.O. and we love you - our lives will never be the same without you.