By Dylan Deprey
Sometimes the greatest ideas come at the most unsuspecting times, and are later redefined through life.
Before Byron Marshall Jr. was putting the finishing touches on his upcoming No Violence, Know Peace March on April 20, he was a young boy sitting in a Baptist Church.
He grew up around Community Baptist church as his mother was the church secretary and granmother was the Pastor’s nurse. He would peruse the bulletin, which showcased all of the church events and community projects.
“I wouldn’t know what the pastor was preaching about, so I’d turn over the bulletin and see all of the different ministries we were doing,” Marshall Jr. said. “I had an epiphany sitting in church like, ‘Man, I want to do this. I saw the holistic approach from church bringing the community together.’”
The idea of reconnecting the community were further instilled while living in a single-parent household in a rough neighborhood on 22nd and Hampton.
His mother, Marsha Ward-Marshall, grandmother, Bernetta Walker and aunt, Teresa Wilson, were his caretakers and role models.
“If it wasn’t for those three women I would not be where I am today,” Marshall Jr. said.
During his time working as Deputy Field Organizer for the Obama for America political organization, he went out into the community to talk to voters in hopes to re-elect President Obama in 2012. He later worked as field organizer for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in 2014.
“I wanted to do something outside of politics, so the relationship I made with the community through that work kind of translated into the work I’m doing now,” Marshall Jr. said.
It was on Sept. 27, 2015 when Marshall Jr. had the vision of a community organization that brought together everybody, including: elected officials, law enforcement agencies, clergy, the formerly incarcerated and the community.
“We believe that when the community calls a timeout to huddle up and draws up a play, then together we can score and eventually win,” Marshall Jr. said.
Community Huddle had its first board meeting with board members Ethel Parnell and Pauline Grant-Jones in Grant-Jones’ office on March 8, 2016. Only three months later, Community Huddle had an office of its own on Garfield and MLK.
In that time, Community Huddle has been putting every ounce of blood, sweat and tears working on their first event: The No Justice, Know Peace March.
“Somebody was shot feet away from my doorstep. So, the violence is now hitting the home front, and something that I was working with from afar, in terms of wanting to denounce violence, was right at my doorstep,” Marshall Jr. said. “It was something I was going to confront for it was going to confront me because nobody’s immune to it, bullets don’t discriminate.”
There were 141 homicides in 2016, and within the first four months of 2017 there were 30 as of April 13, according to the Journal Sentinel homicide tracker.
On April 20th, Community Huddle along with elected officials, clergy, community activists, students, residents and neighbors will take to the streets in denouncing the violence that has left the city in fear and sadness.
The No Violence, Know Peace March begins at 4 p.m. and will start at Carmen Schools of Science and Technology’s Northwest Campus (5496 N. 72nd St.) and head East on W. Silver Springs Dr. to N. 64th St. The March is in Police District 4 where nearly one-third of this year’s homicides have occurred.
“Nobody wants the violence. We talk about it in the barbershop, we talk about it amongst each other, but publicly we really need to come together, and that’s what Community Huddle does: mobilizes, empowers and transforms,” Marshall Jr. said.
Marshall Jr. the March was just one of the many things Community Huddle has in store for the community. He said there would be a Day of Defiance, over summer vacation to introduce positive resources to youth and the community. He also said he would go back to his political ties and work on a voter registration drive, as well as many other projects.
“This is my passion, I never get tired when it comes to this,” Marshall Jr. said. “We need to draw from all of each other’s wisdom, knowledge and talents to take back our communities.”