After a fatal shooting on Macon’s Ward Street last month, members of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church gathered to pray near the roped-off crime scene.
The crime and its location led the Rev. Dan Melaba to call his parishioners to action to try to stop the kind of violence that happened about a block from the church and its school.
Ivan Lamont Oglesby was shot to death May 20 during a party celebrating his 34th birthday. A few hours later, youngsters arrived for St. Peter Claver’s planned Safety Day.
“I remember talking to a parent who was so concerned and wasn’t sure whether she was going to take her children back home. That for me underscores the need for these forums,” Melaba said in a Wednesday news conference to announce a neighborhood meeting FriThe Sunday after the killing, Melaba made an impassioned plea from the pulpit.
The next day, three church members traveled to Atlanta to meet with Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who has agreed to speak at Friday’s forum at the church’s Mother Katharine Drexel Center.
Melaba wants neighbors to learn ways of resolving conflict without resorting to violence.
Loretto Grier Cudjoe Smith, who attended St. Peter Claver School as a child and met with Baker, said her church always has been committed to promoting an atmosphere of peace.
“We are continuously in the process of preventing crime by promoting Catholic social teaching that they should respect human life, which will cut down on the murder rate,” Smith said.
Mary Eva Anderson, who also grew up in Pleasant Hill and helped recruit Baker, said she wants to help restore the neighborhood where her sister still lives. She is handing out fliers to invite neighbors to the forum.
“It was quite shocking because this happened a block away from the church and school,” said Anderson, who is president of the St. Peter Claver Council of Catholic Women. “It really bothered us.”
Spiritual leaders from other local churches such as Greater Allen Chapel AME Church on Pursley Street, the Baptist Ministerial Alliance and the Evangelical Association are expected to participate in Friday’s forum, along with members of the Vineville Neighborhood Association and local law enforcement agencies.
“We want to engage all the stakeholders,” Melaba said.
Police have charged Walter Lemcharles Chapman with murder but are still trying to discern the motive, said Lt. Carl Fletcher, who was familiar with Oglesby’s lengthy crime history that included drug possession around Pleasant Hill.
While only 16, Oglesby was arrested for shooting off-duty DARE police officer Eric Walker, who is now a captain in the department. Walker said he was walking to the ice cream shop on Ingleside Avenue when Oglesby and an accomplice tried to rob him and his fiancee.
“He only got four years for that,” said Walker, who at times can still feel the bullet in his left hip.
Oglesby was out on bond in another armed robbery case when he was fatally wounded in the head, police said.
“I hate it for the family that he died, but he chose his own decisions in life,” Walker said.
St. Peter Claver School alumnus Dr. Thomas Duval wants young people to hear the success stories of the professionals who grew up in the neighborhood.
“Pleasant Hill has a long history of providing opportunity to the African-American community,” said Duval, who served as director of the Oral Health Section in the Georgia Department of Human Resources. “If they know their history, they can be better citizens.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.