A few dozen Prince George’s County residents braved the cold and wind outside Glenarden Municipal Building to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his message of peace, love and hope.
“Let’s keep hope alive. Let’s keep peace in our heart,” said LaTasha Ward, who owns the nonprofit The Solid Foundation and helped organize the event Monday, Jan. 17 called a “Community Peace Gathering.”
“We know the people in our community are hurt. Whether it’s a loss of a job, domestic violence, gun violence or unexpected deaths in families,” she said. “Black and brown people can come together and fix things. This is our county. This is our community. These are our people.”
Former U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr. traveled to Glenarden with advice on selfless love.
King, a Democratic candidate running for Maryland governor, told a short story about a former student named Herman when King worked as a school principal.
“He came to us and was struggling in middle school but he worked hard. Teachers invested in him and his mom invested in him. He succeeded when he got to high school and was playing sports. He was getting good grades,” King said.
“Then Herman was killed in a case of mistaken identity getting off a bus. We can’t do something for Herman but we can do something different for all the young men who get off track, just as teachers did for me,” he said.
Attendees also received the push to follow Dr. King’s advice of nonviolence.
Prince George’s County has endured an uptick in violence during the coronavirus pandemic, especially when it comes to gun violence.
One major part of Prince George’s State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy legislative priorities for Maryland lawmakers this year deals with ghost guns – privately manufactured firearms used in crimes mainly delivered by mail and typically made of plastic.
According to Braveboy’s legislative summary, county police had about 210 cases involving ghost guns last year.
“I believe that … there is a fierce urgency now,” she said. “It is now we must address the violence in our community but it is also now we must address those issues that have plagued our community like mental health, poverty and the absence of hope. As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let’s not forget those who are no longer here.”
Her comments prompted Jawanna Hardy of Capitol Heights to raise a large picture of 8-year-old Peyton “PJ” Evans taped on a piece of cardboard. In August, Peyton died after being shot during a drive-by shooting at an apartment complex in Landover.
Hardy runs a D.C.-based organization called Guns Down Friday which offers services including planning funerals, purchasing groceries and providing mental health support for families whose children have died due to gun violence. She attended middle and high school with Peyton’s mother and both attend the same church, Community of Hope in Temple Hills.
Hardy said she visited Peyton’s gravesite in Suitland on Sunday.
“It still gives me chills thinking about his death,” she said Monday. “The community needs to be consistent and come together.”