Falling Short of 10,000 Men

Andrew Maykuth, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 21, 2008

Nine months after the 10,000 Men movement was launched with great fanfare, the organization that vowed to mount a massive campaign to retake Philadelphia’s crime-ridden streets has fielded only four patrol units totaling about 200 men.

Some of the thousands who attended the organization’s initial rally Oct. 21 said the project had failed to capitalize on the outpouring of enthusiasm for organizing African American men into crime-fighting patrols. They say the movement has lost momentum.

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Outwardly, the organization appears to have stalled. It opened an office at 1501 Christian St. in a property owned by Kenny Gamble, the entertainment mogul and one of the organization’s high-profile founders. But with no paid staff, the headquarters is open only by appointment, Bond said.

And the 10,000 Men Web site (www.10000menphilly.com) has not been updated in months. It still headlines an April 5 Community Action Fair to encourage volunteerism, the organization’s biggest public event since its inaugural rally.

The organizers deny the project has sputtered, and say many of its accomplishments have gone unnoticed.

“I don’t think we’ve lost momentum,” Collins said. “I think there is a majority—a huge, vast number of men who participated and who I am in contact with via my radio show and in public appearances—who are as committed today as they’ve ever been.”

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Joe Certaine, former city managing director, devised an elaborate training manual that was reviewed by then-Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson, who was also a founder. The group expended much effort to devise uniforms and an African-shield logo. It identified members of the “vanguard”—those with experience in law enforcement, the military or Town Watch—who would lead the street patrols.

But Bond said the organization realized that many volunteers had no stomach for participating in the street units. A survey of 2,000 men who attended the inaugural rally found that most were interested in serving as role models in their communities through other activities, he said.

“A large number stated they wanted to be involved in neighborhood cleanup—things of that nature,” Bond said.

Still, the organization’s public position remained fixed on the foot patrols.

In late November, reporters were invited to watch 100 leaders of the vanguard engage in the group’s first “field training” exercise in Point Breeze, where pamphlets were distributed on a sunny Saturday morning.

The organizers promised to emerge in greater numbers when the weather warmed and the threat of crime increased.

“We know the whole nation is looking at us,” Johnson said at the time. “We want to do it step by step, do it correctly.” He did not return a telephone message last week.

The expanded patrols never materialized.

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Despite not having much of a presence on the streets, Collins and Bond said, the movement may have contributed to the reduction in homicides and violent crime because it has encouraged black men to reduce hostilities. The city’s murder rate began dropping in the autumn, and is down about 20 percent from a year ago.

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Some men who attended the initial rally but were discouraged by a lack of communication from the 10,000 Men said the experience nonetheless had inspired them to become more involved on their own.

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[Editor’s Note: An article announcing the 10,000 Men effort can be read here.]

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