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Southeast San Diego Honors MLK With An ‘All Men March’

The All Men March takes place on Saturday to send a message of male accountability on the Martin Luther King Day weekend.

— On Monday, and this weekend, we honor the memory of Martin Luther King. Tomorrow a group in southeast San Diego called 100 Strong will mark the occasion by hosting a march along Skyline Drive called the All Men March. 100 Strong president Mario D. Lewis says the march is part of a series of actions aimed at preventing violence and supporting families in the African American community.

He talked with KPBS Morning Edition host Tom Fudge, and spoke of a street corner in the neighborhood that was so well-known for violence and drug dealing it came to be called the “four corners of death.”

Lewis: A young man named Courtney Graham was murdered at the John Adams apartments and we wanted to do a call to action rally cry. And we then went up to the four corners of death and we had a rally to honor everybody who had lost their lives in this community, and we renamed it the four corners of life.

After that, we started reclaiming the community efforts and knocked on doors once a month, and we’ve knocked on 3,200 doors to date.

Fudge: Tell me what you’re going to be doing tomorrow.

Lewis: We are actually doing an All Men March. As we were knocking on the doors we noticed we didn’t see men participating in anything in the community. So one of our good young members of 100 Strong thought of having an all-men march to bring men together in unity, and find out what we can do to make things better for us.

The march is basically to hold men accountable for their actions. To help them build family relationships, for them to become the natural-born leaders they are in their communities and as mentors, also.

Fudge: Why do you think black men suffer from the kind of despair to not be involved in their communities and, in some cases, not be involved with their families?

Lewis: I don’t think it’s necessarily all black men. I know that with our young men here we don’t have… When I grew up we respected elders and we respected family. We basically learned from our fathers. Unfortunately this community, along with other communities across the nation, was hit with crack cocaine in the late ‘80s, and that caused deep divides among families.

So now you’ve got a situation where… and I’m going to be real honest here… you’ve got a lot of men who don’t have proper guidance. And the only way we can reach those young me is to become the natural leaders that we say we are, and to become mentors to these young men, and to these young ladies also.

Fudge: Is there anything that gives you the impression that your message is getting through to people?

Lewis: Yes, pretty much so! They had a gang war here not too long ago. And the efforts we put in at reclaiming the community, and also the peace coalitions standing on the corners, and the high police presence… I think because of those combined efforts, we haven’t had a shooting since September.

Fudge: And how do you think this all relates to the message of Martin Luther King?

Lewis: I think it all comes together. For one thing, Martin Luther King’s dream is still alive, and we’re still trying to fulfill the dream. We’re still far from the dream, but I think if we work hard as men and women in this community that dream is obtainable.

We actually changed the date of this march a couple of times because we wanted to bring it around this time. You know, we’re going to be having some signs up that say, I Am a Man. Those signs represented a couple of marches that Martin Luther King did. They were actually labor marches. But ‘I Am a Man’ is very significant for what we’re trying to get with our message. And to end the march at the only park in San Diego with his namesake, I think is very significant with what we’re trying to do.

Note: The All Men March ends at Dr. Martin Luther King Park, on Skyline Drive. It begins Saturday morning at 8:30 at Morse High School.

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