“There are some children that have never seen a wide, awakened black man. So just the fact that we are standing up and taking our rightful places as men in our community, it has an impact,” stated brother Albert Campbell. On a hot and sunny morning, Anthony Blackmen, one of the men of the Hunger Nine is outside doing laundry in a red bucket with water and a bar of fresh-smelling soap. There is a reporter from a local news station, some of the other men are huddled speaking, while some others can be found mediating.
After doing a march to a candle light vigil from Liberty City to the Belafonte Tacolcy Center, three men from The Circle of Brotherhood were chanting, “Stop killing our children. Let our children live.” Upon arriving, they met about 40-50 grieving mothers, all in deep distraught, wailing over the children they had to bury due to gun violence. The three men were handing the candles to the mothers as they lit their own individual candles.
“I know a lot of people have went to funerals and maybe have embraced a mother that has lost a child, but to experience nearly 40-50 mothers at one time who were crying, wailing, and in deep sorrow is something I will never forget,” stated Albert Campbell. The empathy and pain they felt for those mothers planted the seed for the Hunger Nine.
In Liberty City on the intersection of 12th and 62nd street, you will find nine men from the organization The Circle of Brotherhood, sleeping in tents with beds, a couple of TVs, an outdoor shower, and a place to do their toiletry. The men are currently on their eighteenth day without food of any kind and are only surviving on still water. Their routine consists of meetings, yoga in the mornings, lots of prayers, and people visiting to discuss the course of action these men have taken.
“We are breaking the cycle of black men being non-existent in our community and it only starts by penetrating the hearts. There is nothing we could have said or done that has not been done already,” stated Anthony Blackman.
The men feel like by doing this hunger strike they are starting an internal dialogue with the people of the community. A big intention of this hunger strike is to help manifest prevention before the act. In black and brown communities, a lot of the gun violence isn’t just stemming from police brutality, but from gun-on-gun violence amongst each other. Instead of looking outside of themselves to help their community, the Hunger Nine are using their bodies, spirits, and their faith in God to lead them to continue this strike.
A lot of the men who are on the strike had dealings with drugs, robbery, and other offenses, but have sought out redemption and are asking the people in their community to seek out the same. Albert Campbell was able to get clemency under Barack Obama to shorten a sentence of 35 years to 22 years. Anthony Blackmen is a man who had his hands in the streets at one point but is now pursuing a degree, is a worker, activist, husband, and father. Every man who is participating in this hunger strike have businesses, jobs, are in school, have wives and kids, etc. It is very important to acknowledge how much all of these men are sacrificing for this cause.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see black men, take full responsibility for their communities. Through us nine brothers this nation will not be the same after this Hunger Strike here, mark my words. I am professing right now that hunger strikes will break out all over this nation for different reasons, not only for the reasons we are doing it but to facilitate a much-needed change all over this world. God has heard his people’s cries,” stated Anthony Blackmen.