Lou Gossett launches ‘Summer of Peace’

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The Malibu resident pushes for a Summer of Peace among inner city gangs; next year’s rally will take place on a national level.

By Ryan O’Quinn/Special to The Malibu Times

A “Summer of Peace” sounds like a lofty goal by any standards, but Malibu resident Lou Gossett Jr. and other notable celebrities took their message to the streets this weekend to promote what Gossett called a step in the right direction to eliminating gang violence in America’s inner cities.

The event, which has been in the planning stage for more than a year, took place Saturday to coincide with the beginning of summer with speeches by representatives from various youth mentoring organizations, peace promoting groups, politicians and celebrities. The occasion was to convince gangs in Los Angeles to commit themselves to a three-month period of nonviolence during the summer months.

The Academy and Emmy award-winning Gossett said, “Our future lawyers, doctors and presidents are killing each other. The answer is, first put the weapons down.”

The culmination of the event was the result of a long process that began with Gossett’s concept of approaching gangs and calling for a truce. Gossett said when he lived near New York City’s Tompkins Square Park his windows would be broken every year at the beginning of the summer because of gang rivalries. Gossett began working with troubled youth years ago and came up with an idea to ask for support from faith-based organizations to support a summer of peace among the gang members.

Candace Bowen, vice president of Women in Film, put Gossett in touch with CiCi Holloway at Viacom/Paramount and eventually the company’s president, Sumner Redstone, who has pledged support on the national level starting with next year’s Summer of Peace rally.

“Every person I have talked with [regarding support of the program] said ‘yes’,” Gossett said. “The next stop is to take this message to Chicago, then New York, then Philadelphia, Washington and Atlanta.”

Freedom Tickets for “Summer of Peace” were distributed free of charge to the public for the gathering at Leimert Park in South Los Angeles following a “love letter” that Gossett’s LOGO Foundation and Torrence Brannon Reese’s FAMLI, Inc. distributed throughout the community.

The letter asked locals to “encourage young people to choose [a] positive direction for their lives and understand the consequences of their actions.”

“This event is extremely important. It’s amazing how much we have in common,” said Gary Quickley of radio station KPFK. “This is an important grass roots statement about us not being divided.”

The crowd in attendance also heard from mentoring organizations such as BUILD/Youth Empowerment Force and Pathways to Your Future whose members are known as Frontline Soldiers and wore shirts proclaiming “Stop the Killin.'”

“We have to create a cohesion and a united front,” said Aquil Basheer, president of BUILD. “We are at war and we are losing that war. The reality of what we have to do, is in us.”

City Councilmember and former Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks took the stage with four women from victim support groups who had lost children due to gang violence. Saturday also marked the fifth anniversary of Parks’ granddaughter’s murder as a result of receiving multiple gunshot wounds while sitting in a car on South La Brea Avenue. “We need to be sure that our kids are not being victimized,” Parks said. “There is no 10-point program coming from Washington or Sacramento or City Hall. It’s up to you. We can’t sit at home and turn channels and say, ‘Why doesn’t someone do something about that?’ We need to take our rightful position as leaders.”

Gossett said this rally was merely a promise for what is to come. He announced support from Viacom by saying this time next year the Summer of Peace will include a walk, a rally and will occur simultaneously in multiple cities and will be televised nationally.

Also addressing the crowd was former National Football League standout and actor Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and actor Tony Plana, who has appeared with Gossett in several films and television shows including “Resurrection Blvd.” and an “Officer and a Gentleman.”

“We need to tell those young people to put the weapons down and help us bring everyone to the same table and share a message of peace,” Plana said. “The message that we’re sending out is one of peace, collaboration, mutual respect, appreciation and love for one another.”

Gossett said the programs already in place would carry on the work by continuing to provide young people alternatives to gangs and encourage nonviolence amongst gangs on a daily basis. His foundation will continue to work with organizations to support such programs and work toward next year’s rally with a goal of reaching every major city in America.