The Call -- updates from Heeding God's Call | November 2013
at Harrisburg press conference

Editors' Note

“The Call” is the production of dedicated Heeding God’s Call volunteers. We offer windows into the many projects in which our gun violence prevention activists are engaged. Look for our next issue in the winter of 2014. Have a question to ask? A bone to pick?  An idea for an article? A letter to the editor burning to be sent? Let us hear from you. Address correspondence to:

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Robert Fles
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Then and Now: Still Marching, Still Making Noise
By Gail Golden
Greater Washington Chapter of HGC

photo of midge curryIt is strange how one meets truly remarkable people in the most unusual places and ways.  One such person I have met standing on the side of the road in front of Realco Guns in District Heights, Maryland, regularly joining the membership of Heeding God’s Call of Greater Washington for two years in demonstrations to try to stop gun violence.  Her name is Midge Curry.  Recently she mentioned to me that she planned to be on the Mall on August 24 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington; as an aside, she mentioned she had been there with Dr. King 50 years previously. 
Here is what Midge told me about that day:
“At the 1963 March on Washington, I was 20 years old and getting ready to start my senior year in college.  I had done a little demonstrating before in support of integration.  I remember telling the Youth Minister at the church I grew up in (when I got home that summer) of my intention to participate in the March on Washington.  He told me that I should read the Civil Rights Bill, which was then before Congress, to make sure I knew what I was doing.  I read the whole bill, which was several inches thick, and was surer than ever that I needed to be there.  I also tried to discuss it with my parents.  They were totally opposed to my participation.  My father was sure there would be a race riot.  My mother said that my financial support for college would be cut off if I went through with my “crazy plan”.  That was June, 1963.  Then I went ahead (without telling them) and made signs (which did not come home with me) with some of my friends that said things like “Jobs Now” and “Housing Now”, and continued to plan for the March.
“When August 27, 1963, rolled around, I had another argument with my parents that lasted late into the night.  We all went to bed, and I got up at 4 a.m. the next morning and snuck out of the house.  I met up with some friends, and we served breakfast to the NAACP chapter from Vermont.  Then we took a bus downtown and made our way to the Washington Monument.  For me, the day was fabulous! There was no discord that my father (and many others) had predicted.  As we walked down Constitution Avenue, we sang many verses (some made up on the spot) of “We Shall Overcome”.  We got as close as we could to the Lincoln Memorial – which was along the Reflecting Pool – and shared and ate the bagged lunches we had brought.  We listened to Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.  There were speakers from Civil Rights organizations, labor unions, and religious groups.  It was a brutally hot day, so we stuck our legs in the Reflecting Pool for a bit of relief.  To be honest, I did not think at the time that Dr. King’s speech would have the impact it has.  Maybe it was the Washington heat affecting my brain.  The day as a whole did affect me.  I knew there were more participants than had ever been at a rally before in Washington (they kept announcing the crowd size).  And I knew that I was absolutely right to be there!”
And for 50 years, Midge has continued to “be there,” to march.   As President Obama said on August 28, “And because they kept marching, America changed.”  Over the years the causes may have changed for Midge, but the focus has remained the same – equality, love, peace.  It is not hard to see the young Midge from that hot August day in the face of the white-haired stalwart in front of Realco just as it was not hard to see the young John Lewis in the weathered face of Representative John Lewis as he spoke these words on August 24, 2013:  “You cannot stand by. You cannot sit down. You have to stand up, speak up, speak out and get in the way. Make some noise.”
Midge is still marching, still making noise, still reminding us of Dr. King’s words, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Thanks, Midge, for continuing to witness!

Murder Site Vigil in South Philadelphia

Folks gathered in South Philadelphia to remember Nasir Slaughter, 17, gunned down as he and some friends walked down the street around the corner from his father’s house in Philadelphia late last summer. The vigil was held on November 10. Nasir’s parents are in the center of the third picture, wearing black jackets.

Fall Highlights from around the Country

  • At its fall board meeting in Harrisburg in October, HGC took important legal steps toward becoming an independent 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Board Chair Katie Day also announced the formation of the following standing committees: Finance; Personnel; Strategy; and Program. There was discussion of expansion of HGC into Virginia and of methods for getting started with efforts on the part of HGC to affect gun violence legislation. The next board meeting will be held in January.

  • At the board meeting encouraging news was given regarding the increased funding of HGC in 2013 through grants, congregational giving, and individual gifts. The finance committee presented its Congregational Membership Plan for  review and approval.

  • Shara Dunham has quickly become immersed in her work as HGC’s new Field Organizer since coming on board in September. Shara will concentrate on meeting with the individual chapters and assisting them in their planning. She also devotes part of her time to improving the HGC web site and use of social media.

  • Southeastern Pennsylvania is the setting for the newest HGC chapter. Called the Chester/Delco Chapter, combining residents and faith communities from the city of Chester and from nearby areas in Delaware County, the chapter held its kick-off rally on Sunday, November 3. Over 140 people gathered to hear Bryan Miller; Anita Littleton, pastor of Refuge in Christ’s Church; Chester Mayor John Linder; and Movita Johnson-Harrell, Beverly Wright, Charlene Carter, and Diana Reynolds—four mothers who all have lost sons to gun violence.

  • In the Philadelphia area, three events during the Week of Peace on September 9-15 were sponsored in part or in whole by HGC:

    o   RawTools: a Tuesday afternoon workshop and evening rally on a national project for turning guns into garden tools (“Raw” is “War” spelled backwards)
    o   A Saturday rally at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, where the Memorial to the Lost tee-shirt exhibit was on display for three weeks; members of HGC, the church, and the community all participated in the service
    o   A Sunday afternoon forum entitled “Theology and Gun Violence: A Conversation” was held in a local church; four speakers—one Jewish, one Muslim, one Protestant, and one Roman Catholic—discussed their faith traditions and scriptures in relation to gun violence and engaged in lively conversation with each other and the audience

  • The Harrisburg chapter has also constructed a Memorial to the Lost recently. The tee-shirts bear the names of those killed by handguns in the Harrisburg area since 2009. The Harrisburg memorial also has HGC placards, interpretive placards, and a chronological list of the homicides by year. It has been on display at six sites already since being constructed in August. Harrisburg, Washington D. C., and Philadelphia all now have or soon will have a Memorial to the Lost.

  • Neighborhood Partners to End Gun violence (the HGC chapter in Northwest Philadelphia) continues its demonstrations in front of Delia’s Gun Shop. In addition, the chapter has prepared introductory material and discussion questions pertaining to “Trigger,” the documentary film on gun violence that can be used with adult classes or with faith communities who are considering becoming involved with HGC. The chapter is also working with a local artist, who came to us after the murders at the Sandy Hook school with the question, “How can I as an artist do something to put these horrors in front of the public and press people not to forget but to take action and demand change?”

  • A sub-committee has been formed in the Philadelphia Coordinating Committee to coordinate and oversee the Memorial to the Lost. It plans to prepare a template or booklet regarding the purpose and logistics of having such a memorial, incorporating the variations in the memorials of the various chapters. 

Notes from the Greater Washington Chapter

  • Demonstrations at Realco Gun Shop in District Heights, MD, continue on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.  Members and supporters of HGCGW are now participating in  demonstrations held on the 14th of each month at the NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, VA, in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook ES shootings in December, 2012. 

  • The chapter is sponsoring a program of peace scheduled in conjunction with the United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21, 2013, at 10:00 a.m.  Faith Presbyterian Church in SW Washington is co-sponsoring the program, entitled Education for Peace.  The keynote speaker will be Nardyne Jefferies, who lost her 16-year-old daughter to gun violence during a 2010 drive-by shooting not far from Faith PC; in total, four died and seven were injured.  A representative of the Metropolitan Police Department will join speakers from diverse backgrounds in prayer and education.  The Step Team from Matthew Memorial Baptist Church will lead us as we “step into peace.” 

  • Lisa Miller Delity has accepted the role of Chairperson for HGCGW. 

  • The Greater Washington chapter is involved in on-going efforts to “expand our ranks” by reaching out to other organizations in the GW area with similar goals to ours.  We are anxious to find ways to not only increase our numbers but also to change of demographics to include more people of color, more diversity in faith, and younger participants. 

  • The organizational structure of the GW chapter is also being reviewed with possible revisions pending. 

  • The State of Maryland is applauded for the recently passed gun legislation that will become effective on October 1, 2013.  Key points to the legislation passed are included below:

  1. All handgun purchases must first obtain a license from the State Police after participating I four hours of training and a fingerprint-based background check.

  2. Gun owners are required t report lost/stolen guns within 72 hours.

  3. New penalties are imposed for use in crimes of cop killer bullets.

  4. Gun magazines sold may include no more than 10 bullets.

  5. The category of persons prohibited from possessing guns is expanded to include anyone involuntarily committed for any length of time. 

  6. The authority of the State Police is greatly strengthened, allowing them to shut down rogue gun dealers whose guns result in a disproportionate number of crimes.

  • Members of the Greater Washington Chapter participated on Saturday, September 7, 2013, in the Virginia Gun Violence Prevention Strategy Summit in Richmond, VA.

  • Plans are being made at this time for construction of our own Memorial to the Lost (T-Shirt display) for those people who lost their lives to gun violence during 2013. 

  • Former Chair of the Greater Washington chapter, Reverend James Atwood, is presenting a six-week course at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church during Adult Sunday School which is based on his book “America and Its Guns: A theological Expose.”  The course begins on September 8 and concludes on October 13 with the subject of the responsibility of the faith communities to building Christ’s “Peaceable Kingdom.”  Reverend Atwood’s book can be purchased through Amazon.  If anyone wishes to contact Reverend Atwood, he/she should use the email address for the Greater Washington chapter of HGC.

  • Our email address has changed to 

"All These Trayvon Martins": A Response

In July, the Philadelphia Daily News ran an article about Tremaine Rogers, a teenager shot down in the back yard of his foster mother’s home in Philadelphia. Read it here. Gail Golden, secretary of Heeding's DC chapter, wrote a brief response: The story is heartbreaking and tragic in so many ways.  Thanks for taking the time to read this story about Tremaine, a "throw away" kid who deserves to be remembered and mourned.  As a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Foster Children, I advocate for four "Tremaines," children for whom I care and hope that they do not meet Tremaine's fate.  If you have ever thought that you, too, would like to work with foster children as a CASA or a Guardian Ad LItum (GAL), go online to see what the process is for your state.  And, of course, thank you for continuing to work with HGCGW, with your places of worship, with your communities, etc., to end gun violence.

Katie's Reading List

In a recent organizing meeting for NPEG, our Northwest Philadelphia Chapter, Board Chair  Katie Day offered this suggested reading list for activists

--America and its Guns, Jim Atwood (published by Cascade Books, Eugene OR, 2012)--
--Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America (Princeton University Press, 2006) 
--Guns, Democracy and the Insurrectionist Idea, Josh Horwitz (2009) 
--Gun Violence, Gospel Values 

Have you read these yet?  If so, let us know what you think.  Write a brief review for The Call!    

header photo courtesy of The Father Paul Washington Foundation