A Westside Walk to Promote Unity
Members of the Red Bank community walked together Thursday to help inspire positive change.
As much as Thursday night’s walk through the west side of Red Bank served to highlight some of the socioeconomic struggles facing the forgotten side of town and its residents, so too was it a reaffirmation of the feelings of unity and communal pride shared by those whom live here.
At a stop at an apartment complex on Locust Avenue, as neighborhood children chased each other on the small patches of available grass, Rev. Terrence Porter of Pilgrim Baptist talked about an area of town that’s been ostracized, partly because of the past crimes that have come to define it, and also because of ongoing conflicts and tensions between those who live there.
Just two months ago, Larry “Froggy” Yarbrough Jr. was stabbed and killed during an altercation on nearby Bank Street. According to authorities, the 39 year old was a victim trying to protect his friend in the fight. In the aftermath of Yarbrough’s death, several residents spoke of tensions that remained in the neighborhood, even after the suspects had been arrested.
Rev. Frank Pino, one of several church leaders who joined Porter on the community walk, said people tend to focus on the differences that separate them, often overlooking the more numerous similarities.
“Yes, we have differences, but we have so much more in common. The differences are so minute compared to what we have in common and that’s what we need to focus on,” he said. “In order to grow as a community, a state, a nation, we need to live together in perfect harmony.”
With a strong statement that included more than two dozen people, arms locked, walking down Shrewsbury Avenue and singing the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome,” it was clear that this effort for greater community focus, which includes plans for more meetings and events and even a future symposium, is neither short lived or reactionary.
Much of the discussion during the walk focused on larger issues, like the economic well being of the west side and its residents.
Stopping in front of a small market, Porter highlighted the need for residents and the borough to step up and make home and business ownership a proposition for those living in the neighborhood. Citing the borough’s master plan, which calls for further developing Shrewsbury Avenue, Porter said the borough has shown some initiative, but all parties need to make this plan a reality.
“We don’t just want money coming from outside, buying our properties and renting them,” he said, pointing the finger at Long Branch for developing its seafront properties while ignoring its neighborhoods. “We need to take advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities that are available.”
Though the walk was well attended, community organizer Linda Clark said she was concerned that more young people hadn’t showed up. Since the beginning, however, Clark and other community leaders have made it a point of saying they’ll stay the course and continue to reach out to everyone in the community.
“It’s not about pointing the finger,” she said outside of the Bank Street home where Yarbrough was murdered. “It’s about looking at yourself and saying ‘What can I do?’”