With Pasadena Police motors flanked on both sides, a line of vintage, glistening two- and four-wheeled machines rolled through the streets of Pasadena on Sunday, representing one long procession for peace.
Neighborhood Survants, a new nonprofit founded by Pasadena PD Park Safety Specialist Michelle White, collaborated with the United in Peace Foundation to hold the Peace Ride and Rally in the city for the first time.
White started Neighborhood Survants as a grassroots movement “to empower our youth, bring peace and bridge gaps in our community in any way.”
“I think that we need to bridge gaps in Pasadena,” White said. “We are in a place now where change is needed. We need to work harder – together – to make our streets safer for our kids.”
The Peace Ride and Rally started with a Youth Peace Walk that went from Day One headquarters on North Euclid Avenue to City Hall
Pasadena PD Lt. Carolyn Gordon and Deputy Chief Cheryl Moody also attended the rally, engaging with participants throughout the day.
“We support their efforts,” Moody said. “We support peace all the time. Whatever we can do to support peace, we’re going to do it.”
Starting out at the Rose Bowl, the motorcade made its way through neighborhood streets and to Pasadena City Hall, with onlookers flashing the peace sign and cheering along the route.
“These are residents of our cities,” White said. “These people here have kids that are growing up here. The bridging of the gap starts here.”
A rally was then staged on the steps of City Hall, where the crowd heard from family members whose loved ones had lost their lives to street violence.
“Behind every bullet there is a story,” said Natalia Jackson, 11, whose father Kenny Jackson was shot and killed during a robbery at his cell phone store in Van Nuys on May 10, 2013. ‘At just 11 years old, I am passionate in taking a stand in creating a world we all want.” Every day, 90 people are killed by gun violence in America. Gun violence impacts everyone.”
Another group held a large banner with a photo of a smiling Salvador Esparza III, who was 4 years old when he was shot and killed during a drive-by shooting in Altadena on July 6, 2016.
Esparza’s murder is still unsolved, and a caption above the boy’s picture read “Do you know who murdered me?”
Another group carried a banner with the phrase #OURKIDSLIVESMATTEREDTOO, written above photos of 54 young murder victims.
Local religious leaders from different faiths also participated in the rally.
Among the most notable was Minister Tony Muhammad, Western Regional Director of the Nation of Islam, and one of the founders of the Peace Rides.
“You got sports bikes, you got Harleys, you got Corvettes, you got low riders,” Muhammad said. “You got all these different colors. If we can do this for a day, we can do this for a week, then two weeks and then forever. This is a beautiful day to see all of us come together no matter your race, your class, no matter your color. Everyone who lost their lives, we want their death to give energy to a movement.”
In August, Neighborhood Survants hosted its first “Back 2 School Explosion,” which provided 1,100 backpacks and school supplies, 100 free haircuts and 55 braiding appointments for Pasadena youngsters.
The nonprofit plans to continue hosting educational, athletic, social, and faith-based events for the community.
Between the ride and the rally, White estimated from 500 to 700 people participated in the event.
“The turn out today represents that people want to make changes,” White said. “This is huge sign that says we are going someplace positive.”