A cross-section of religious leaders from throughout Pine Bluff gathered in the fellowship hall of Southside Baptist Church on Wednesday morning with the family members of two young men killed in criminal acts this year.
They were there to announce a plan of action for reclaiming the city from the criminal element that participants agreed is holding the community hostage.
“We all agreed to come together from our churches spread out all over the city because violence has no preference for what color you are or how much money you make,” said the Rev. Kerry Price of Bread of Life Church. “We are tired of it. We have got to take a stand. We can’t sit in the background and stay quiet.”
Price said that earlier in the year he participated in a campaign with other local pastors to personally speak with everyone living in the neighborhood near Southside Baptist.
“We started from 23rd Avenue between Cherry Street and Olive Street all the way up to 28th Avenue,” Price said. “We went house to house and asked how we could help them out. We went to every home. During that time crime dropped over 50 percent. So if that could happen in this area, imagine what can happen if we do that across the whole city?”
Marquiza Bullard lost Dametrick McDaniel, father of their 3-year-old daughter, to gun violence Nov. 28.
“I lost my baby’s daddy because of a friend he thought he had who got on drugs and killed him for no reason at all,” Bullard said with emotion in her voice. “The most important thing that needs to be done is to deal with these people that are on drugs. Drugs are really messing with people’s heads.”
Dametrick McDaniel’s body was discovered inside an apartment in central Pine Bluff in the early hours of Thanksgiving day after the 3-year-old daughter knocked on a neighbor’s door. Rashune Raglon, 25, has been arrested in connection with McDaniel’s death and police said a witness reported seeing Raglon shoot McDaniel with a shotgun.
Shundia Austin lost her son Bendrell Urquhart on April 26, 2013. Jonathan Jones, then 21, was arrested in Urquhart’s death.
“I decided that I would not let my son’s murder be in vain,” Austin said. “I encourage other parents who have lost their kids to murderers to work together with the city and to meet with Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks. We have drugs in this city. Neighbors, you have to get involved, whether it’s your family or not. When you see people doing something illegal that they shouldn’t be doing you need to report it. You could possibly save their lives.”
McDaniel’s mother, Wanda McDaniel, and sister Teneshia McDaniel spoke briefly through their tears.
“My son was killed in front of his 3-year-old daughter,” Wanda McDaniel said.
Price had more to say on the issue at hand.
“We need to take a stand and not just sit around and say, ‘well the mayor doesn’t do this or the police chief doesn’t do that,’ ” Price said. “Pine Bluff is my home. I was raised up here. I went to elementary school and high school here. I was raised up without a daddy but I had a strong mother. I didn’t ever get a bicycle but I never broke into a store to get one, either.”
Price said that excuses some people make for criminal behavior — including coming from a single-parent household — are not valid as evidenced by his own experience.
“We had a theme that we decided not to use,” Price said. “I’m tired of it and, hell, we ain’t going to take it no more. Some might think that’s too strong, but it’s in the Bible. We are letting the devil know that he’s not moving into this territory.”
Hollingsworth agreed that the status quo is unsustainable.
“As a community we have to come together and as a community we must be outraged at what is going on,” Hollingsworth said. “To me, to know that a 3-year-old was going from apartment to apartment to find help is unacceptable and our city should feel the same way. We as citizens have got to rise to the cause and say that this is a new dawn in our city. We are taking back our neighborhoods and our streets. We are going to do that one neighborhood at a time and one street at a time.”
Hubanks said the PBPD is continuing to implement its problem-oriented-policing strategy.
“The entire initiative that we came to work with in January was fully dependent upon the interaction with the public,” Hubanks said. “With problem-oriented policing we identify a problem and go about solving it in as many ways as we possibly can. A number of solutions can be dealt with by the City Council guided by data provided for the purpose of determining how to fix the problem.”
Price said that Jan. 19, 2014 has been designated Justice Sunday in Pine Bluff.
“We want our pastors to talk to their congregations about violence in the community on Jan. 19,” Price said. “We know that people talk to others about what they heard during the Sunday sermon, so we are hoping that the anti-violence message will spread throughout the community in this way.”