Marchers want peace dividend spent on cities Group here is pushing hard to organize a massive march Saturday in Washington.

May 11, 1992|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,Staff Writer

Liz Scott doesn't leave the house without a Save Our Cities/Save Our Children button. Her office is plastered with posters about the march in Washington this coming Saturday.

She slips flyers about it into business correspondence. She includes a reminder to "be there" on the telephone answering machines at work and at home.

And don't think Ms. Scott is pushing this event only to the network of neighborhood groups she serves as executive director of the Coalition of Peninsula Organizations in South Baltimore. This goes beyond her job as a community organizer. It speaks to her concern for the future of this country.

"We are not only marching for the cities, and for the children. We are marching for our lives. We are marching for Americans," said Ms. Scott, whose daughter, sister and nieces will accompany her to the Mall in Washington Saturday.

"What happened in L.A. -- not just the acquittal and primarily the aftermath of the acquittal -- certainly gave me a sense of urgency of the importance of the message being carried."

The message is this: Redirect billions of dollars in defense money to the impoverished cities of America to educate, house and employ their citizens.

Unlike last October, when 3,000 Baltimoreans marched on Washington, this year's march is expected to bring folks from Tucson and Trenton, Atlanta and New Brunswick, San Diego and Pittsburgh.

Newspapers in Boston and New York have run free ads or editorials promoting the Save Our Cities/Save Our Children march.

Supporters with backgrounds as diverse as New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to filmmaker Spike Lee have called the march's national organizers offering to get the word out or seeking the opportunity to address the thousands of people expected at the event.

In Baltimore, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, among the first to speak out nationally on the so-called Peace Dividend, assigned a city staffer to work primarily on helping coordinate Baltimore's participation in the march.

Each of the 15 mayor's stations -- community centers that help citizens get access to city services -- have worked to organize transportation for the march.

School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey encouraged teachers and administrators to get involved.

Community leaders say those efforts have made a difference in ensuring that all who want to participate can.

At Canton Middle School, for example, math teacher Barbara Faltz Jackson encouraged her seventh-graders to help promote the march as part of a community service project. And 13-year-old Kimberly Lindsey took her up on the idea.

"I just go outside on the street, and I see all these people who are homeless and have no where to go, and I think it's really important to have a place to go and be fed and be educated," said Kimberly, who spent last Thursday and Friday knocking on doors in Canton and handing out leaflets.

"Save Our Cities is so our tax dollars can be spent on stuff the city really needs. We don't need o . . . fancy bombs for the military anymore," she added.

To Rosalind Wilson, director of the mayor's station in Govans, the Washington march is "an educational opportunity . . . a lesson in civics."

"We tell people it's a good thing to register and vote," Ms. Wilson said. "We really don't teach people how to bring about social change. We don't teach people to hold our elected officials accountable."

Sister Katherine Corr, one of the original organizers of last year's march, agreed that the efforts under way in Baltimore go beyond the Washington event. "This is not just trying to get more people to a march. It's about people thinking about their role as a citizen and citizen involvement and citizens participation," said Sister Corr, director of Jobs with Peace, a Southeast Baltimore community organization. "This is a way to vote with your feet."

When Baltimore organized its march last year, it was promoted as a prelude to this spring's national event.

But several participants expressed concern that it took a tragedy like the Rodney King verdict and the Los Angeles riots to galvanize support for the national march.

"The incidents that occurred in Los Angeles clearly have increased the public's awareness about problems in the city, and there is a renewed sense of concern throughout the country about cities," Mr. Schmoke said. "But what's lacking is a new agenda that will distinguish what we need to do in the '90s than from what we did in the '60s."

"In a way, we've been pushing something like this, because we anticipated something like what happened in L.A.," said Tom Chalkley, who called for a march on Washington in a 1990 column in the City Paper. "Anybody who knows what's going on in the inner cities could have anticipated what happened there. What I feel badly about is that we didn't start five years ago pushing the same sort of thing."

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