Residents of a broken north St. Louis neighborhood called Monday for a restoration of hope and dignity, and in Atlanta, the Rev. Al Sharpton declared war on community violence and drug dealers.
Sharpton, speaking from the porch of his headquarters in gritty West Atlanta, said that too often, the perpetrators of crime and violence against blacks are other blacks.
"We must be outraged when people who look like us, live with us and claim to be us, kill us," said Sharpton, who was accompanied by ministers, Nation of Islam organizers and Yamma Brown, an activist and daughter of Sharpton's mentor, the late James Brown.
The gatherings Monday in St. Louis, Atlanta and more than 20 other U.S. cities were part of the National Day of Outrage, a nationwide call to end violence in urban communities. The events were spearheaded by Sharpton's National Action Network, a civil rights organization, and community leaders.
About 30 people gathered in the Fountain Park neighborhood of St. Louis to discuss the hope and promise for a community they say has been broken by parental neglect, drugs, unemployment and escalating violence.
Fountain Park was once a proud, upper middle-class, African-American neighborhood that began to decline in the 1960s.
Now, "every night, every day, there's a killing, a shooting, a lot of nonsensical violence," longtime resident and community organizer Anna Nicholas, 60, said. "There's no parenting in the home. These children know no other route of getting attention."
Fountain Park resident Roy Scott, 64, said young men in their 20s and 30s "are slinging drugs in the middle of the block.
"They don't have no respect for nobody, no how, and they don't mind shooting," he said.
"The answer is get them, put them in jail, give them lots of time and forget about them."
Thirty-two-year-old Tamika Hollings, who owns a hair salon and does carpentry on the side, said those who commit murder in their neighborhoods should be sent to fight the war.
"If they're given life without parole, send them to the front line," she said. Those who enlisted "went there to pay for their education, not to die."
The Rev. Troy Spencer, 48, of New Rock Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, has spent his whole life in the Fountain Park neighborhood. He dreams of raising $1.5 million to transform an old, long-abandoned storefront into a community center.
Others at the St. Louis rally emphasized the need for mentoring teens and young mothers and for recreational opportunities for young people.
On a corner of West Atlanta, youths held signs urging peace as drivers honked their horns.
Sharpton said thugs are "a disgrace and a shame to the community" and blamed civil rights leaders like himself for failing to rein in violence. He urged town halls in each of the cities that were participating in Monday's event.
"None of us have done enough," he said.
On the Net:
National Action Network: http://www.nationalactionnetwork.net/
Associated Press writer Dionne Walker in Atlanta contributed to this report.