Chants of “Say no to drugs” and “I want to live,” came from a group of about 20 kids marching through Austin for the annual Arthur Lockhart Say No To Drugs and Violence Parade.
For this 24th annual parade, Healing Temple Church of God in Christ, the event’s sponsor, included stopping violence as part of its theme. In a community that saw 20 homicides in seven months, organizers recognized the importance of promoting peace in their neighborhood.
“This year, adding the violence piece, we’re hoping to bring more awareness that we need to deal with the violence in our community, which goes hand-in-hand with drug-use,” said Elizabeth Lockhart, executive director of Healing Temple and a lifelong resident of Austin.
Lockhart’s father, whom the parade is named after, started Healing Temple more than 35 years ago. Her brother, the Rev. Larry Lockhart, serves as pastor. The July 28 event involved several participants, including the South Shore Drill Team, Exodus Drum and Bugle Corps, Chicago Sky’s mascot, who handed out souvenirs, and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th).
The alderman greeted constituents while her team of aides passed out neighborhood watch posters with “we call police” in big black and red letters, meant for residents to put in their windows.
“We need to help the kids get off the streets and make sure the younger kids don’t start selling drugs and doing the wrong things in life,” said Laverta Pitts, 23, whose three sons – ages 3, 6 and 9 – all marched in the parade carrying anti-drug and violence signs.