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Kids march against drugs

July 24, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

More than 40 children led an anti-drug march through one of Hagerstown's most troubled neighborhoods Saturday afternoon.

Carrying signs that read "Use Your Brain, Avoid Cocaine" and "Be Cool, Stay in School," the group - which also included about 20 adults - paraded through the Jonathan Street area. Some of the marchers said the parade took them right past several known drug dealers.

The neighborhood has a reputation for crime and open air drug markets. It is the focal point of the state-funded HotSpot Communities Initiative in Hagerstown.

The intent of the HotSpot program is to revive downtrodden communities by supporting crime-fighting and community-building programs. This year's HotSpot grant for Hagerstown was $110,000, according to program Coordinator Carolyn Brooks.

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One of the marchers, 8-year-old Ikea Smith, said the parade "shows that we have respect for Hagerstown."

Paula Burnett, who was marching with her 3-year-old daughter Jasmine, said, "It's very important. It shows that the people aren't playing anymore and they want their community back."

The march was part of the "Unity in the Community" event sponsored by the Community Mobilization Committee, which is under the HotSpot program. The event was based on the lawn of the Pride of Hagerstown Elks Lodge #278 and Sharon Temple #160 Elks Center at 326 Jonathan St.

Before the march, several speakers from the community addressed the crowd outside the center.

Yvonne Parson, evangelist at the House of Prayer on Jonathan Street, said she could remember when it was safe to walk around the community at night, and said they should make the neighborhood a place "where we feel safe again."

The Rev. Leroy Jackson, from nearby Ebenezer AME Church, said: "If there's going to be a difference made in this community, it's going to take all of us. Not a handful."

He blamed "a few people from out of town" for bringing crime and drugs into the neighborhood.

Broadfording Christian Academy valedictorian Ikesia Fowlkes and Western Heights Middle School teacher Willie Conyers told the children to stay in school.

Beverly Hudgins, with the Frederick County Department of Social Services, told parents to "remember that your children's No. 1 hero is you."

And Hagerstown Police Lt. Margaret Kline said, "We need to have the courage to do the right thing for ourselves and the community."

Stan Brown Jr., chairman of the committee that organized Saturday's march and speeches, said he was pleased with the turnout.

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