Nearly 400 residents, parents, members of clergy, police officers, and community activists gathered at Crenshaw High School recently to participate in “Hands Around Crenshaw High School,” a community call to promote healing and unity.

Many attending said they were disturbed by the recent racial turbulence that broke out at Locke High School and hoped that this gathering would be the symbolic event that would promote peace in other schools in the Southland.

Tears streamed down the faces of many of the participants and heartfelt prayers were uttered on the schools’ football field as a number of clergy and community leaders prayed for safety, peace, and healing. Others prayed that the school would be shielded from the threat of gangs, drugs, gun warfare, and other harmful influences.

The rally was organized by the Los Angeles Urban League in conjunction with its Neighborhood at Work Initiative, which was launched last year to support the high school and neighborhood.

“I felt it was important to come today,” said Mavis Stokes, a resident of the Crenshaw district for over 30 years. “My nephew graduated from Crenshaw high. This school has always been an inspiration in this community-not only for its athletic achievements, but academically as well.

I’m proud of this school and I want to support it any way I can.”

Students wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with “Hands Across Crenshaw High” excitedly stared at the attendees and many expressed pride that so many parents, residents, and community leaders had shown up to support their school. “I didn’t know so many people cared about Crenshaw,” said one student proudly.

Blair Taylor, chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Urban League, thanked the community for their support and told the attendees that his goal is to move the school into the 21st century.

“Our goal is to make Crenshaw High School one of the 10 or 15 best high schools in the next four or five years,” he said. “Today was a reinforcement of all that…We believe that when this high school turns, this community will turn.”

Dr. Clyde Oden, pastor of Bryant Temple AME Church, felt that the event was significant in sending the message that the community would not tolerate negative influences. “It was important that the adults in the community stand up for the students and for the school. Like the children of Israel, when they left their oppressor to move to the promised land, they had to walk around Jericho. We, too, have to walk around Crenshaw as we leave our period of oppression.

Finally, we all have to stand up and say, ‘This far and no further.’ We are not going to let things go any further in terms of deterioration and negative forces that have plagued our community and that school.”

As parents, teachers, clergy, police officers, and community activists joined hands on the field, Bishop Kenneth Ulmer of Faithful Central Bible Church delivered a passionate and spirited prayer that had every head bowed on the field. “We thank God for this school and we hope that God will shield it from harm,” prayed Ulmer.