The Rev. Romie Lilly didn't look for spiritual counsel when he needed help to deliver his message of peace in the 'hood. Instead, Lilly took his cue from liquor and tobacco companies that advertise their products on billboards citywide.
"What we're doing is using the same media that carries a lot of negative messages, but we're using it to carry a positive message," Lilly said.
Lilly is executive director of the Southern Area Clergy Council, a group of 75 area church leaders who are sponsoring a billboard campaign that aims to increase awareness and prevention of violence.
The billboards already are up in parts of Compton, Lynwood, Willowbrook, Watts and South-Central carrying a simple message: "Keep It Good, in the 'Hood."
The campaign began nearly two months ago after Lilly and other pastors enlisted the support of community businesses and other leaders to help create a three-month season of peace in these areas.
"There is no way to convince all the kids, but maybe you can make a small group of kids recognize the importance of this message," said Banh Le, who owns a small printing shop in Compton and is a member of the campaign. "Since the riots, no one has come up with my idea to educate the youth and they (the clergy council) have been doing good work in this community."
The bilingual message is not solely aimed at stopping gang-related violence, Lilly said, but all types of violence.
"Our responsibility is not only to make the truce between the Bloods and the Crips, but to strike a truce between husband and wife," he said. "The fact is, domestic violence is the most common type of violence in the country."
In addition to the 50 billboards, the group is passing out 500,000 flyers to schools, homes and on street corners across the five communities. The majority of the funding for the $30,000 project was donated by businesses such as Le's and Nix Check Cashing.
The clergy council's members said the campaign is part of a project that will include workshops such as an upcoming meeting at the New Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Compton on the "three strikes" anti-crime law.
"We've come to the conclusion that if we're going to make our communities a better place, we have to make it better because we're the ones that live here," Lilly said. "No one else is going to do it for us."