Shavon Tolbert had only one goal when she decided to plan a Stop the Violence rally scheduled for today. She wanted to honor the memory of her brother, David Scott, by spreading awareness about the gun violence that took his life in September.
Scott's birthday is Jan. 19, and Tolbert wanted to hold the event close to the date. She also thought the rally would be a good fit for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
But when she inquired about holding it this weekend, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson suggested Tolbert join the city-sponsored event, "The Dream Lives: MLK Legacy Commemoration" at noon at the Government Center, which was already being planned.
Tolbert, however, went forward with her Stop the Violence rally that will take place a few hours after the city's event. It is being planned by Tolbert's newly formed organization, Brother's Keeper Foundation, and will begin at 2 p.m. with a march from the Michael Fluellen Recreational Center to the site where her brother was killed at Seventh Street and Coolidge Avenue. The group will then march back to the Fluellen Recreational Center for the rally.
Guest speakers will include former Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce Vice President Colin Martin, Tomlinson's opponent in the 2014 mayoral race; Columbus Councilor Bruce Huff; and J Aleem Hud, director of Project Rebound, a youth empowerment organization.
Tolbert said violence is an issue that should be addressed. Her 34-year-old brother was in his vehicle Sept. 19 when a group of men allegedly pulled up in a truck and opened fire. Scott was shot multiple times, including once in the head. He died hours later in the hospital.
Tolbert, 33, said Scott was the father of three children, ages 13, 15 and 17. He grew up in Columbus and attended Jordan High School. He did odd jobs like landscaping.
Tolbert said her brother's senseless killing should be a wake-up call for the community, and she hopes the rally brings awareness.
"You see it on the news all the time -- robbing, killing, breaking in people's houses, stealing people's cars. They're doing everything," she said. "I'm trying to send a message for everybody really, but mostly the young kids between 17 and 25, that it's not about violence. We're dealing with this too long. It's time for a change."
Tolbert said she went to council in November to seek city support for the event, but the mayor suggested she join the activities that were already being planned for the MLK holiday. The city is calling their event a "unity processional" with motivational speeches and entertainment, and it is sponsored by Tomlinson's Commission on Unity, Diversity and Prosperity. Seventy organizations signed up and Tomlinson expects 2,000 people to participate.
Tolbert said she requested a proclamation for her rally, and when she called this week to see if the mayor would read it, she was told that the mayor wouldn't be available.
So, she asked Huff to read it instead. She said the mayor called later to say that she would read the proclamation, but Tolbert told her it was too late.
Tomlinson said in an interview that most of city's festivities should end around 1:30 p.m., and she will be attending both events. She said when she called Tolbert to tell her she could read the proclamation, Tolbert said there wouldn't be enough time, and she would prefer that she read it at council's proclamation session the first Tuesday in February. She said she is willing to do that but will bring the proclamation to today's rally just in case.
"It's their event and whatever the Brother's Keepers Foundation wants to do is fine with me," she said. "I'll be there, I'll have the proclamation if they would like for it to be presented."