It is the same call to arms that the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. heard when it was time to go to Birmingham for the bus boycott and to Memphis to help the garbage workers.
Stephenson will spend this Saturday, Jan. 15, King's actual birthday, marching in Columbus, Ga., with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others in search of justice for the late Kenneth B. Walker and his family.
The Lithonia resident, along with much of the nation, has been following the case for the past 13 months.
On Dec. 10, 2003, Kenneth Walker and his three best friends were on their way to the local Applebee's restaurant when Muscogee County sheriff's deputies pulled over the gray GMC Yukon they were traveling in. The deputies were looking for some potentially violent drug dealers. Just 48 seconds after the stop was made, 39-year-old Walker lay dead on the ground after being shot execution-style in the head by Deputy Sheriff David Glisson with an assault rifle.
Walker and his friends were not drug dealers. They were young, black, unarmed professionals. Walker was a husband, father, active member of St. Mary's Road United Methodist Church, lifetime member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and 15-year employee of Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
The incident became a civil rights battleground. On Nov. 23, 2004, a grand jury issued a "no indictment" against Glisson, and Walker's widow has filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against Muscogee County, Glisson and Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson.
Stephenson believes it to be a clear case of DWB — Driving While Black. He and others are pulling out their Hosea Williams outfits — bib overalls and red shirts — and joining in a national march.
The Rev. Nelson Rivers, chief operating officer of the NAACP, says the march should be in Walker's name.
"Let the world know that in Columbus, Georgia, you got together and marched in the name of Kenny Walker," he said. "If you march with the right numbers and the right spirit, guess what? Justice will roll."
Buses will be rolling into Columbus from New York, Chicago and Atlanta for what is being called a "March for Jobs, Peace and Justice" and marchers are being asked to wear red, black and green ribbons.
"This whole incident has become a rallying point behind police profiling," Stephenson said. "What started out as local support for the Walker family and justice has turned into a national consciousness. Once the [shooting] video was released, it became crystal clear that this call for justice was legitimate."
State Sen. Gloria Butler, whose District 55 includes portions of South DeKalb, says that something has to be done. She has been trying for years to get a strong law passed in Georgia.
"We have to make it illegal for police to stop people of color because of their race," Butler said.
She adds that a watered down bill passed the Senate in 1999 but did not pass the House.
" I have introduced it every session since then but could never get it out of committee," she said.
For the 2005 legislative session that kicked off Jan. 10, state Rep. Tyrone Brooks from Atlanta, who has also consistently introduced racial profiling legislation, has submitted HB-30.
The 2 p.m. march will begin at the Columbus Civic Center at Veterans Parkway and Victory and travel 0.7 miles to the Government Center where the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Dr. Joseph E. Lowery and Charles Steele Jr. will be among the speakers.
March organizers include the Concerned Black Clergy of Metro Atlanta, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Women Wanting Justice, the NAACP, the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials and Al Sharpton's National Action Network.
Ron Parker, a Stone Mountain resident and director of the nonprofit advocacy group the Georgia Employee Association, is one of the DeKalb organizers who went to Columbus in early December for an unsuccessful meeting with the district attorney on the case.
"He was not interested in helping," Parker said. "We told him that the next time we come back we are going to close the city down."
Organizers are expecting 15,000 to 20,000 protesters to participate. Buses have been donated and the cost of the ride from Atlanta is $20 which includes lunch.
All buses will be leaving the Atlanta Life Building at 100 Auburn Plaza at 10 a.m. To reserve your spot, call Tina Jones with Operation PUSH at 404-525-5663 or e-mail email@example.com. Those who want to drive their own vehicles and caravan are also welcome.