According to a few real estate websites, Gulfport, Mississippi has a rising violent crime rate. The United States violent crime rate is 367.9 violent crimes per 100,000 persons, and Gulfport, a small port city, is 340.9 as of 2011. The statistics website Quandl.com reported some statistics based on research they did three months ago. Mississippi five years ago reported 280 and now, that number is already at 269 in the month of May. In the past few months, several violent crimes were committed and people are fed up.
Reverend Harold Spann, the Pastor at New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Gulfport, Mississippi, aims to do something about that. Pastor Spann is the founder and organizer for “The Gathering” a multi-denominational and multi-church fellowship festival. He points out that in the Biblical New Testament day, Jews journeyed to the Temple in Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals. Pastor Spann said he would love to see “The Gathering” become a pilgrimage festival and that it is well on its way to becoming just that. “We’re expecting anywhere from 2,500 to 3,500, hopefully more. We have people from Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. Last year we had people come all the way from St. Louis Missouri.”
Pastor Spann says that their most important concern is reaching the youth. He spoke on the seemingly random acts of violence he often hears about. Many on the Mississippi Gulf Coast can attest to his claim as valid and cause-worthy. Back in January in Biloxi at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum, there was a small fight that snowball into a mob of on-lookers that could have easily turned into a riot. During Mardi Gras, there were several fights and some even covered in the news. In March there was mass teen / adult fight at a local sportsplex. Just weeks ago a man attempted to rob a pharmacy by ramming his car through an adjacent store window.
Pastor Spann says that there will be several ministers, pastors, churches, and organizations in attendance. Some the speakers and entertainers will include Bishop Anthony L. Alfred, Bishop John Pace, Thomas Clute, and Charles Miskell. Pastor Spann says that his prayer is that this outreach will touch the youth of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and cause a change in their lives. “Our teenagers… our young people are hurting! They need help. Amen… They are involved in things and they don’t even know why they’re involved in it. They are out there in the dark and we are hoping to bring them back into the light.”