The Bradenton neighborhood surrounding the 13th AV Dream Center came together once again Sunday in a rally against violence. This time, though, the gathering holds greater promise than past community marches, forums and other events in neighborhoods throughout the county. This time, a call to action inspired about 100 people to attend the launch of the "Real Men Movement."
The organization comes in the wake of the shocking shooting death of Brenton Colemen Sr. while he was holding his 5-year-old son on the grounds of the Dream Center, just as youth football practice broke up on Aug. 1. Hundreds of parents and children were there.
Several hundred concerned citizens attended an Aug. 2 rally at the center. Now, under an initiative entitled the Manatee Metro Action Plan, the Real Men Movement is taking shape -- to take back the neighborhood from crime and violence and build a stronger community.
This is a very encouraging sign that a community is truly uniting on a committed and ongoing basis to work together. The action plan asks the new members of the Real Men Movement to commit to this seven-point pledge:
"Join with our committed men to advocate for effective change in our community in the areas of crime reduction, economic opportunity, education, health, mentoring and family values, ministry and evangelism, and social justice and equality."
The action plan's broad scope reflects the goal of creating a positive environment that turns youth away from crime, drugs and violence. This initiative by United Community Centers, the Dream Center's parent organization, has two key partners, the YMCA and Mt. Zion Progressive Baptist Church.
Why a Real Men Movement? Patrick Carnegie, UCC president and chief executive, explained ahead of Sunday's meeting:
"We always see our ladies doing a good job, but we need our men to stand up as well. ... we want to be inclusive of the entire community, but there is a need for men to stand up and lead."
Bradenton Police Lt. James Wilkinson attended Sunday's Real Men Movement event, noting that the increase in police presence in the community since the August slaying has cut down crime, with only one shooting and two robberies since in Zone 2.
But he also pointed out that police need communities to respond, too:
"We can only do so much. They need to take back their neighborhoods."
Greg Alexandrea attended and joined the movement, describing the situation with precision:
"You either sit on the sidelines or you get in the game. It's time the community bands together."
Indeed. We hope this movement gains momentum and succeeds in building a safer community. Other neighborhoods should take inspiration from Manatee Metro Action Plan and the Real Men Movement, and build their own grass-roots organizations.