CCOP Clergy Host Lifelines to Healing Press Conference

Rev. Marilyn Dixon-Hill speaks about the importance of creating an environment in Camden where communities of color can feel alive and free.

October 08, 2013

By Joe Green/South Jersey Times


CAMDEN - It's doubtful Jewell Manire's 5-year-old son will soon understand what happened to his mother one year ago.

What's certain is that he'll never find a good answer as to why it happened.

Such was the crux of a press conference and rally of sorts held Monday just outside city hall. Manire's parents - Demetrius Divine and Dyamond Manire - joined clergy and other supporters to call for residents and organizations to speak out against the violence that last year led to the city's record 67 homicides.

The event was organized by Camden Churches Organized for People (CCOP), a group working with law enforcement, residents and other groups to try to steer people away from criminal activity and drug use.

Manire, 18, was one of two people killed on the night of Oct. 6, 2012, when a masked gunman fired into a car in which she and others were sitting, in the city's Fairview neighborhood.

Five people altogether were shot. Manire and 20-year-old Khalil Gibson died from their wounds. The killer, who authorities said was also armed with a machete that night, has not been found.

Dyamond Manire and Divine sought to encourage residents to speak out and stand against such violence. That's just the message Rev. Marilyn Hill, an associate pastor with Camden Bible Tabernacle Church, preaches.

"We need to work together," said Hill, who works with the multi-denominational CCOP, after the event. "It can't just be the police. We need to get people to wake up and realize this isn't just somebody else's problem."

According to Hill, that means much more than just arresting offenders. It means snuffing out the seeds of criminal behavior before they even sprout.

"We have to show people there is another way, that there are other opportunities," she said. "People are just so used to living with the violence, that they don't realize there's something bigger."

Hill said residents who might otherwise turn to crime need to be given opportunities for jobs, membership and other means to be productive.

"You can't just arrest everybody," she continued, "because when they get out (of prison), and you haven't changed anything (opportunities), nothing different will happen

"If there's no change, you've just released a criminal with a lot more education."

The CCOP meets regularly with law enforcement, public officials and other groups to help come up with ways to combat criminal activity.

Members also attend victims' funerals and otherwise inquire on how they can help their families, through prayer or otherwise, Hill explained. It's the kind of partnership that helped bring Manire's parents, along with concerned residents to City Hall.

"We want them to know they're not walking alone," Hill said.