SANDUSKY — More than 125 young people descended on Sandusky’s Battery Park over the weekend to sign a slightly altered Declaration of Independence.
They had grievances, just like their counterparts in the colonies 231 years ago.
The three-headed “ruler” this time: drugs, alcohol and gangs.
The individuals signed an 80 by 35 declaration Saturday to kick off a cross country trek from California to Washington, D.C. Thursday. The purpose: To deliver the new declaration the officials in Washington, and seek signatures from students, school officials and lawmakers along the way.
Originally, five students from the Sandusky area were going to accompany project organizer Medric Sydnor and other adults, seeking signatures from students, school officials and lawmakers along the way. However, Sydnor said the trek would require students to miss too much school, so only the adults will make the trip.
Its official kick off is next Saturday in California. Sydnor and other volunteers will hit cities such as Sacramento, Calif., Reno, Nevada, Salt Lake City, Utah, Denver, Colo., St. Louis, Mo. and Springfield, Ill. They will spend about a week in each state, and are tentatively scheduled to arrive in Sandusky Nov. 17.
The purpose of the trip is to not only raise awareness and seek signatures, but to raise money for the National High School Reform Museum, scheduled to open March 28 in Sandusky. The museum is the brainchild of Sydnor, who established it to deter youngsters from taking drugs and alcohol and joining gangs. The museum, to be located at 2901 W. Monroe St., will also serve as a hang-out and activity center for area youth. In 2009, locations will open in Baltimore and Baton Rouge, La. — cities where inner-city youths are struggling.
Many of the teenagers and young adults signing the declaration Sunday drove here from Baltimore for that purpose.
Seventeen-year-old Albert Phillips and 20-year-old Cornell Peeples said they heard about Sunday’s signing through word-of-mouth.
“In Baltimore, that’s what a lot of youth get into,” Phillips said, referring to gangs and drugs. He added he drives the streets of Baltimore every day and notices gangs and drug dealers.
Peeples said he asked some gang members to join him and Phillips in Sandusky to sign the declaration.
The response: The gangsters had scheduling conflicts.
“We’re just trying to beat these statistics we’re facing,” Pepples said. For example, he said Baltimore has one of the highest murder rates in the country and a high rate of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) as well.
Peeples and Phillips are already active in trying to improve their community. They belong to Solvivaz Nation, a “nation of strong Black people who strive to strengthen the community around us on a daily basis, according to the Web site solvivaznation.com.
Many in the declaration signing group Sunday were African American, but there was at least one white family in the mix as well.
Shannon Wilson, a volunteer of the National High School Reform Museum, and her sons Dylan, 5 and Derrick, 7, walked along with others from Sandusky High School to Battery Park for the signing.
Wilson’s goal: To instill in her children at a young age the dangers of substance abuse. The boys carried signs reading “No Drug Zone” and “Don’t Smoke.”
When they arrived at the park, they declared their own independence from those substances.