‘Stop the silence … stop the violence’

Community leaders call for change at Trayvon Martin rally

Staff Writer

 Local educator Donald Covin speaks at a rally held at the Second Baptist Church in Long Branch on April 17 to address impacts on the local community of the slaying of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.  PHOTOS BY CHRIS KELLY Local educator Donald Covin speaks at a rally held at the Second Baptist Church in Long Branch on April 17 to address impacts on the local community of the slaying of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. PHOTOS BY CHRIS KELLY Leaders of the black community said last week it is time to confront violence within their own communities in the wake of the killing of an unarmed Florida teen. “I’m saying it is time for us not to be silent, it’s time to speak up,” said the Rev. Aaron N. Gibson Sr., pastor of Second Baptist Church in Long Branch, during a reflection on the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Rev. Gibson told the large crowd gathered at the church on April 17 that people are at times afraid to come forward with what they’ve seen.

“The church and the community really need to be proactive. I’m hoping that our community will not be silent when it comes to the many issues that we face,” he said.

 Odessa Dangler leads attendees in prayer. Odessa Dangler leads attendees in prayer. “Not only do we need to stop the silence, but we also need to stop the violence,” he added. “We have so many widows in our community, and many of them are frightened by the community they live in right now.”

Greater Long Branch NAACP President William Dangler, Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider, Long Branch School Superintendent Michael Salvatore and others also spoke during the rally.

Dangler cited statistics that show 50- plus violent crimes were committed in Monmouth County in 2011 and 15 so far in 2012 as a reason for action in the community.

“We are outraged but we don’t speak to what the issue is,” he said. “The issue isn’t about getting the person who carries the gun arrested, the issue is changing the mindset of what we are doing.

“The issue is understanding that this is not the way,” he added. “We can’t blame it on just [lack of jobs], it’s still a mentality.”

Rev. Gibson said the killing that has gained national attention should lead to change in local communities.

“Some people say that now that [George Zimmerman] is in jail, that situation is over.

“No, it’s not over, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. It is an opportunity for us to look at what is happening in Long Branch, what is happening in Asbury Park, what is happening all over Monmouth County and the state ofNewJersey. ”

The incident has received intense national scrutiny after Martin was killed on Feb. 26 while walking in the gated community where he was visiting his father.

Zimmerman, who served as the neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community, allegedly shot the unarmed teenager but was not charged with second-degree murder untilApril 11.

Protests have been held throughout the country and locally inAsbury Park, Red Bank and at Brookdale Community College.

Dangler said members of the community need to do more than just talk about these issues.

“No longer should we talk about it over the phone, or at happy hour or at the club,” he said. “We need to come together under one umbrella as Long Branch or Monmouth County.”

Community activist and NAACP member Tyrone Laws said that while the entire community needs to step up, individuals cannot wait for the community to act.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, what is your role in that village?” he asked.

Minister John Muhammad, of Asbury Park, representing the Nation of Islam, called for the city to adopt better youth programs and for the police department to assume a less confrontational relationship with city youth.

The rally began with a prayer led by

Odessa Dangler.

During her prayer, Sister Dangler said there should have been no reason to hold the rally.

“We shouldn’t have to have a meeting in 2012 so that justice should be done,” she said. “We should not be shot down when we are not doing anything.

“We should not have to have a rally to prove that justice should be done in the United States.”

One of the issues frequently cited is the fact that Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt on the night he was killed,

Schneider said it is not uncommon for him to be seen at sporting events wearing a “hoodie.”

“The thought did occur to me that it would be appropriate to wear my sweatshirt,” he said. “As a white Jewish lawyer, I don’t look at a young African

American in a sweatshirt and get scared.”

Schneider said restrictive gun laws in New Jersey are one of the reasons residents feel safe in the community.

“I don’t see why in a gated community in Florida that a man has to carry a gun,” he said. “I do feel better about being in Long Branch, where we haven’t had that kind of incident.

“We don’t have civilians walking around with a concealed weapon worried about protecting a gated community,” he added. “I’m glad to see people outraged. Outrage is not a bad thing when something like this happens.”

Donald Covin, principal of the Long Branch Middle School, said Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows the use of deadly force if a person feels threatened, is the main reason the incident occurred.

Salvatore said the killing of Trayvon Martin would ultimately inspire change.

“We never know who we are going to face in life, and what happened here is really an incident that moved people,” he said. “It’s moved a nation, and only the spirit of a child can move a nation.

“Let’s not wait for the next Trayvon Martin, to stand up.’