Sunday was hot—the high was 90 degrees.
Devon Carruthers knew he had to be prepared. He had flats of water bottles and set up a tent with a sound system to play inspirational music. But the water would not be needed, nor the music.
Nine people showed up to Carruthers’ planned March for Peace at the “I Am A Man” Plaza next to the historic Clayborn Temple Downtown.
Still, the 21-year-old was undeterred.
“I think that’s nine more people that are inclined to go out in the community and be inspired," he said. So I'm happy with nine. Hopefully next time it’s more but... I’ve done what I needed to do to make change start.”
Carruthers is an administrative assistant at Clayborn Temple. He started planning the event after the violent standoff between Memphis police and protestors in the Frayser area just over two weeks ago. The gathering, he thought, would encourage people to network and learn about organizations promoting community development.
“I hear a lot of people complain sometimes that they don’t know how to help or they don’t know where they can help,” Carruthers says. “So today was all about...bringing people together.”
Participants would then march Downtown, carrying a large white banner saying “Peace is what we want/need” as a show of solidarity. But as rain clouds loomed overhead, Carruthers joked that it was literally “about to rain on our parade.”
For 21-year-old Octavius Adams, it was the thought and sincerity that counted.
He said Memphis’ pivotal role in the civil rights movement inspired him to come. Martin Luther King Jr., who visited Clayborn Temple, he pointed out, also started small.
“Martin Luther King stood on that stage. I was blessed enough to put my feet on that same stage,” said Adams, a performing artist. “And that just let me believe that all it takes is the person and the will to do so. “
Carruthers hasn’t set a date for his next attempt at the event. But he’s determined to try again.
“Maybe on a cooler day,” he says with a laugh.