Sunday, February 10, 2008

10,000 Man Flop

A recent article by the Philadelphia City Paper, written by an old friend of mine, Tom Namako, reveals that the vaunted 10,000 Man March held to counter violence in Philadelphia last autumn has so far failed to produce a viable movement. A lack of organization and failure to mobilize large numbers of men has hindered the effectiveness of the proposed anti-crime campaign.

This lack of results testifies to the ineffectiveness of solutions to community problems imposed from the top down. The very structure of the 10,000 Man movement has a militaristic ring to it, with the City Paper article describing members drilling in military formation and being granted faux military ranks. The account testifies to the impracticality and borderline pretentiousness of the movement as currently organized.

Perhaps the most telling example of how out of touch this movement is with the actual circumstances of the community it is supposed to help is the involvement of my church, the First Unitarian Church on Chestnut Street. On the day of the 10,000 Man march, the entire congregation-which is largely white-marched out, got on the subway, and went to join the march. This is not wrong in and of itself, but seems ludicrous when one considers that the 10,000 Man movement ostensibly focuses on motivating African-American men to fix community problems.

Although their intentions were noble, the First Unitarian congregation is largely composed of middle class Caucasian liberals who have no more first hand knowledge of life in inner city African-American communities than Dan Quayle. (e.g. In order to gain an understanding of how people on food stamps live, they set off with a food stamp budget, roughly $21, to shop at Trader Joe’s! Hardly a place most food stamp dependents would bother with.)

As the article ultimately concludes, it will take community directed efforts to solve the issue of violence in Philadelphia, not cumbersome, outsider directed movements.

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