It’s 6:38 p.m., and the sun casts over Liberty City with a cool breeze. Nine men in their 19th day of hunger strike stoically stand in front of a webcam, conducting a live interview for the Rolland Martin show, a national online daily news show. Neighbors, honking in support, whiz by their temporary campground, a pre-Arthur McDuffie riots gas station, while cop cars with their lights on drive by.
“Brother World smells chicken that’s fried from somewhere,” MacArthur Richard Sr., also known as World, says, laughing. Richard, one of the hunger nine, as they like to be called, remains in good spirits after not eating for 19 days.
The paramedics who monitor the men twice a day found Richard’s blood sugar stable, despite his diabetes. They can’t believe it: “It ain’t nobody but God,” Richard said about his surprisingly stable A1C levels.
The nine men are camped NW 62nd Street and 12th Avenue, drinking only water during a hunger strike that protests gangs and guns.
For Richard, a philanthropist, entrepreneur and human rights activist in Liberty City, it is the support of community that has kept him going. Elementary school kids come by every day, with handwritten letters thanking them.
On Wednesday evening, children ran around the lot next to their mothers, and a younger man held a baby in his arms. “Our young children is what we’re concerned with. Before they get 10 years old they done seen five people with their brains blown out in their front yard, so by the time they get to be 15 they’re immune to it [violence],” said Richard, 57.
At 12 years old, growing up in the “Pork n’ Beans” projects of Liberty City in the 1960s and ‘70s, two of his friends were shot. He explained that gun violence at that time happened occasionally. Now, it happens more than ever. He knows that the children here do not get the luxury of 12 years without worrying about gun violence anymore.
Since the Hunger 9 have been conducting their hunger strike, they says they’ve heard multiple gunshots.
“Go to social media, send it out to your friends, ‘cause a lot of people don’t know what’s going on”, Richard explained. He also went on to say that another organization in Bradenton, Florida, is demonstrating via a hunger strike.