On MLK Day, ex-gang members embrace peace to improve Raleigh neighborhoods

Joel Brown Image
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
On MLK Day, ex-gang members embrace peace to improve Raleigh neighborhoods
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On MLK Day, ex-gang members embrace peace to improve Raleigh neighborhoods

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Monday nights are always "Bring Back the Village" nights at the Lighthouse.

It's a weekly meeting -- open to anyone -- and many of the people who come are ex-gang members who in the past may have done little to represent the values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But, now they are invested in remaking their community using the lessons of the civil rights icon.

There was a spirited discussion at the Lighthouse on this night of Martin Luther King Day. Joshua Bishop had a lot to say.

"This is the Capital. We have to clean up our city as a collective," he said to the group.

Cleaning up Raleigh has not always been Bishop's priority. He's open about his mistakes as a younger man -- lured in by gangs in southeast Raleigh and serving his share of jail and prison time.

With no interest in being a prisoner anymore, he now fights the system from the outside. He's now a certified community court advocate -- devoted to keeping other at-risk black youth out of the criminal court system that swallowed him alive.

"We're here for a purpose," Bishop said. "I tell Miss Powell that all the time: you the new Martin (Luther King) and I'm new Malcolm (X)."

Miss Powell is Diana Powell, the ordained minister turned Raleigh community advocate, who has made turning the lives of gang members around her life's work.

On MLK Day, Powell seized on Dr. King's message from the past to help inspire this group to resolve the struggles of today.

"We see the police brutality; we see the gangs; we see the drug-infestation in our community. How do we respond today? Do we respond an eye for an eye or do we respond with peace," Powell asked them.

William Swain gave up gang life and has become a community leader, and not just at these Monday night meetings.

He gave up gang colors, and on this night, spoke of healing the divide among skin colors.

"Color shouldn't be something that we look at. If this man is white and I'm black, we still men," Swain said. "At the end of the day it don't matter."

The meeting paused when one of the young people read lines from one of Dr. King's speeches. "The question is not whether we will be extremists but what kind of extremists will we be," they read.

These new young leaders not just satisfied with changing their own lives. Now, they want to change the world.