On Sunday, August 25, 2013, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., The Smith Center For Community Advancement hosted its' 1st Annual Smith Center Memorial Walk led by the CEO of the organization, Mr. Andre C. Russell. This is a newly created non for profit family support agency. According to Mr. Russell, the goal of The First Annual Memorial Walk is not only to honor those young souls who will not have the opportunity to start a school year, due to being struck down by gang and gun violence; but to also serve as a call to action for the community to become more active and vigilant for their children’s lives, and for the sake of their neighbors. Andre states: "Let’s shine a spotlight on this goal and its benefits to our community."
This was a significant and historic event. Participants wore white t-shirts, displaying the names of loved ones who lost their lives to gang and gun violence. While many celebrated and paid tribute to the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s walk on Washington and his historic 'I Have A Dream' speech in Washington, D.C., more than 100 supporters were there in spirit as they walked from Chicago Vocational Career Academy (CVCA), located 2100 East 87th Street in Chicago, Illinois, to Bowen H.S., located 2710 East 89th Street. While at Bowen's High School site, Mr. Russell gave a powerful speech to the parents, children, as well as all supporters, encouraging them to be more active in their communities with a goal to stop the war that is erupting on the streets and to save our youth. He stated: "You're worth more than the candles, flowers and teddy bears by the street poles! You have a mission to go forth and make something of your life." Andre told the crowd that too many young people are dying a senseless death to gang and gun violence; and it must stop. He challenged each participant to become activist for their communities. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been proud to witness this moment, in which this young brother started with the man in the mirror and decided to take a stand. His mother, Ms. Sharran Russell, stated: "He has wanted to do this since he was a teenager at Chicago Vocational Career Academy. I'm proud of his efforts." She thanked everyone for rendering their support.
Among the supporters were Andre C. Russell's Mason Lodge: Joseph Lodge #12 and their sisters, Trinity Chapter #8; Most Worshipful Foster Edney Williams Grand Lodge and their sisters, M.W. Rosetta P. Guyse Grand Chapter; Kemet Lodge #8; Andre's mother - Ms. Sharran Russell, sister - Robin Russell, grandfather- Grandpa Smith, aunt, cousins - a host of the Smith Family Lineage; many parents, children, and friends who valued the cause and sacrificed the time and energy to walk. Along the way, cars honked and acknowledged the efforts of the crowd as they marched throughout the southeast side of the city and returned to CVCA.
Mr. Andre C. Russell's 1st Annual Smith Memorial Walk was documented as a success. He humbly stated: "This event isn't about me. It's about each of you making a difference by joining me today. I am full and excited about the outpouring of support. Let's keep it going." In essence, keep your eyes and ears open for more positive, community based events brought to you by The Smith Center For Community Advancement.