Carl Upchurch was the executive director of the Council of Urban Peace and Justice in Granville, Ohio when this interview appeared. He served as national coordinator of the Gang Summit. Jim Wallis spoke with him after the event.
- The Editors
Jim Wallis : You were the one to head out on the road and begin to talk to people in different cities about the idea of a national Gang Summit. Paint the picture of how it happened. How did you become involved at the beginning?
Carl Upchurch : I was very interested in finding and embracing the leadership of the truce movements springing up around the country. I went to Los Angeles for 30 days right after the uprising to examine what was going on and to look for who actually spoke for urban America.
There was absolutely no peace and justice presence there. Those folks who had operated there for years and who had some very credible track records with regards to peace and justice nationally and internationally were not present in South Central. That was the most painful observation.
Also, the traditional civil rights organizations and the communities of faith in South Central did not have sufficient credibility to speak on behalf of those in the streets--the people demonstrating frustration over the Rodney King decision and other local inequities and injustices.
I came back from LA and wrote a report called "Voices" that attempted to document from a grassroots perspective what was actually going on there. I realized that these voices weren't being heard. I wondered, How can we connect these truce movements that I had heard were going on around the country?