Members and colleagues of the Alliance of Concerned Men know exactly what former Executive Director Tyrone Parker means when he says, “Ain’t No Air in That.” It’s a phrase that symbolizes the foundation upon which the ACM was established more than 40 years ago in D.C. to end gun violence and combat juvenile crime by providing life and social skills to the youth of Washington, D.C. There is no puffing in Parker’s commitment to put his life on the line to save those who care little about the lives of others or their own.
Like many young men in the city lured into a potential life of crime, Parker was, too. But it was the death of his son Rodney, who was shot and killed outside of a skating rink, that turned him into an activist seeking hands-on solutions to stop the killing of young people by young people. “He [Rodney] was in the wrong place at the wrong time, simple as that,” Parker said. In response to the thought, “We’ve got to do something,” the Alliance of Concerned Men was born in 1991.
Parker decided this year to retire and turn over the ACM’s reins to new leadership. But his departure could not come without recognition and celebration. Last Saturday, more than 150 people joined the ACM to honor him and ACM co-founders James Alsobrooks, Rahim Jenkins, Eric Johnson, Joe Nelson, Peter L. Jackson, Gerard Alston and Arthur “Rico” Rush, who died on March 23, 2020.
They grew up together and graduated from Eastern and McKinley Tech High Schools. They went down different paths – Vietnam and the streets of D.C. – but the violence brought them back together to seek a solution and to bring peace to the streets of D.C.
To hear their stories, the violence they confronted in 1991 without any financial support, training, or resources, took more than a leap of faith to turn around some of D.C. ‘s notoriously dangerous neighborhoods. Benning Terrace in Northeast, where there were a reported 59 murders of young people over a short time, is where they focused their attention.
“The solution was in the problem. We realized that young people in our communities had no sense of purpose or reason,” Parker said. ACM negotiated a truce between warring gang members. Their work made such a significant difference that it was replicated in other communities across the country.
A new leader, Terrance Staley, has been passed the baton. As a Bowie State graduate and disabled veteran, he is also a beneficiary of ACM’s impact on the community. He will lead the ACM’s programs, including Cure the Streets, Violence Free Zone Initiative, Conflict Resolution Youth Training and the Credible Messenger program.
Parker, who still shows up at the office though retired, reminds us how one person can make a difference in all of our lives. “The spirit of God, the lessons of Jesus and the commitment of our people,” Parker said, “is what will lead to the transformation of people.” He closed by saying, “Do all you can for as much as you can for those that are making a difference in our community.”
ACM continues to make a difference and there “ain’t no air in that!”