More than two dozen residents of Lynmore Estates marched in the drizzling rain Tuesday afternoon to honor the life of William Leon King, who was stabbed to death Dec. 3 on Marion Avenue.
The group sang hymns and echoed inspirational declarations shouted by the Rev. William Rand as they walked from Southside Community Church on Roy Avenue through the area often called the Peach Orchard, a neighborhood that has deteriorated for decades in the shadow of Macon’s industrial district.
“I am committed to change in our neighborhood. Look at me and you see change,” Rand called out for the crowd to repeat. “No more death in Lynmore Estates!”
The movement to save Lynmore Estates has gathered steam lately. The city of Macon designated the area as a “Shalom Zone” to empower the faith community. Habitat for Humanity has built and is building several new homes in the area. A collaborative effort by Community Partnership facilitates work by more than 60 organizations. And of course, there are the churches.
Rand came to the Peach Orchard four years ago. In those days, he felt compelled to carry a gun. Now, he doesn’t want to take any steps backward.
“People were scared. I realized then it was time for us to stand up as a church,” Rand said. “This is not what we want for the neighborhood.”
What Southside Community Church lacks in people or money, it makes up in space, a computer lab, Community Partnership meetings, Georgia Work Ready training and two AmeriCorps volunteer programs.
“I told them if they were serious about the work they wanted to do in the neighborhood, they could start here,” Rand said.
On the march, the group passed homes in varying states of disarray, peeling paint, grassless yards and haphazard add-ons. A few bright spots emerged: a lush green yard here, Christmas lights and Santa Claus inflatables there.
As they group moved towards Marion Avenue, their neighbors appeared in doorways and windows. A train rushed by at San Carlos Drive, and they stopped. This is where William King died, at a duplex in a yard marred by deep tire tracks from the garbage truck backing up to the Dumpster in front.
A woman in mourning threw herself on the rain-saturated ground. Church members and family moved in to comfort her while Rand urged them all to be strong, to make this the beginning of a new Lynmore Estates.
His colleague at Countryside Baptist Church, Rayfour Johnson, one of the 12 white marchers present, read from Psalms 51: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. In your good pleasure, make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.”
Johnson was called to the Peach Orchard and says he can’t leave.
“I fell in love with the people here. We’re not black, not white, not Mexican. We’re neighbors, and this neighborhood is worth it,” he said.
Retired Macon police Capt. Carolyn Glover agrees.
“As a police officer, I could tell this neighborhood wanted to come out of poverty. I was done protecting it, but I was not done serving.”
She currently heads Community Partnership’s leadership training program and works as a Vista volunteer where she once worked on patrol.
Wearing a memorial shirt and sunglasses to help disguise his tears, King’s best friend, Sebastian Walls, led the march with King’s family. He remembered a good man who dreamed of opening a sports bar.
“This is what happens with violence,” Walls said. “This is the only outcome: hurt and pain.”
He sees the work that is changing Lynmore Estates and believes it can spread.
“I have hope for all of Macon, Georgia,” he said. “We aren’t a bad city, but we can do better.”