A northside minister and his congregation set down their bibles and picked up rakes and shovels Sunday to celebrate their worship by cleaning up a troubled neighborhood known for violence and death.
“Today is our third annual, ‘Taking Jesus to the Hood,’” said Rev. Malachi Walker of Great Commission Church of God. “We know about this place because not too long ago a homicide took place here, a young guy name of Jakoby Scott was shot and killed here, but this is a rough neighborhood and we do know that.”
Walker and his congregation were pulling weeds on the vacant strip of land bordering a parking lot and a handful of stores at 34th Street and Brouse Avenue where Scott was murdered last May.
Scott’s killing set off a police chase and crash hours later and the shootings of four more people in the days to come.
The area just off Keystone Avenue is in the middle of an IMPD focus area designated for additional attention and enforcement due to crime and poverty.
“This is a tough community but that doesn’t mean that we sit back and not doing nothing so hopefully today we might set the tone, we might put a little spark underneath this community that will stand up and come forward and start doing something to help this community because, as I said, this is a community that has great potential,” said Walker whose church sits several blocks away west on 34th Street. “We know there’s a lot of crime. This is one of the focus areas but just because it’s a focus area and it’s a high crime ridden area, it doesn’t mean we sit down and do nothing.”
Members of Walker’s church were handing out $5 gas cards to drivers at two nearby convenience stores.
“There was one gentleman he came and put two dollars’ worth of gas in his car,” said Brenda Knox, “and I said, ‘Okay, we’re doing random acts of kindness and I’d like to bless you with another five for your car,’ and I think he wanted to hug me.”
Tellingly, no residents dug in beside the volunteers to beautify their own community.
“There’s probably no neighbors joining in on this cleaning, but they see what we’re doing, they’re sitting around and they’re watching and hopefully that will rub off,” said Walker. “It’s slow, but I’ll tell you what, it’s making a difference, but there’s been a lot of tension out here.”
One passerby challenged a volunteer to bring the clean up to his neighborhood at 10th & Rural Streets a couple miles south of Sunday’s service mission, claiming, “There’s lot of drug dealers there, too.”
Walker said that intersection, the site of a fatal police action shooting this spring, may be next on group’s list, unless a church in that neighborhood steps up to clean up its own community.