Rev, Maurice Hardwick, LIP work to end violence, conflicts
By Ron Wynn
Detroit Pastor Maurice Hardwick knows first hand the devastating impact of violence on the streets of his and many other cities. But while many grow frustrated and weary at seeing promising youth cut down long before reaching their potential or even having the opportunity for growth, Rev. Hardwick is doing something about it.
Last year he formed "LIP," an acronym for "Live In Peace," which he calls both "a Movement and a Way of Life." Every Tuesday Rev. Hardwick and LIP members gather today for various community outreach programs. They also post videos on social media urging others to get involved, with people wearing LIP T-Shirts to make their message more emphatic.
The LIP Movement isn't Rev. Hardwick's inital foray into religious-propelled community activism. He began Men of God Frontline Ministries in 2006 and became Pastor of Body of Believers Outreach Ministries in August 2007. They moved into their current location in 2010. Mentorship and ministry to young people has always been a huge part of his life, and he's served as both a Chaplain and Spiritual Director doing ministry to the incarcerated. A Detroit native, Rev. Hardwick minces no words in talking about these issues or his background.
"I grew up in the streets," Rev. Hardwick said Monday during an extensive interview. "There's nothing anyone can say to me that will shock or scare me. I've seen it first hand, and I know that ignoring or pretending the violence is going to go away won't cut it. You've got to get involved and you've got to be willing to go directly to the source."
Rev. Hardwick cites the summer of 1998 as when he first got the inspiration for what's become the LIP Movement. "I was attending a bunch of funerals that year, because the murder rate spiked to become the biggest in recent Detroit history," Rev. Harwick said. "I must have buried 30 to 40 young men over a short period of time, and I kept seeing these young guys wearing these T-shirts that said "RIP." I thought to myself, why couldn't these young men have lived in peace instead? Why are they gone now and we've got other young people wearing these shirts?"
"So I really started then thinking about what can be done in terms of ministry, mediation and counseling to young people to stop the carnage, stop the killing. That's where LIP has been developed from. We go in the homes, we go in the schools, we go in the communities every week, and try to convince young people to put their efforts into living in peace rather than comforting someone after they are gone."
Rev. Hardwick speaks frankly and passionately about exactly what LIP does and how he interacts with young people. "I've talked to gangbangers, young men and women on the street and I ask them point blank are you willing to kill your mother? Are you willing to kill your sibling or your friends? It's like that Biggie Smalls song that talked about how you're nobody till somebody kills you. It's that philosophy that I'm combating and that LIP is combating. The reason that a Trayvon Martin can have his life snuffed out is because of that attitude. I'm trying to get them to understand that it is important to treasure life, to feel like your life matter and the lives of your friends as well."
But he's also very conscious of the necessity for the right approach when talking to young people. "You've got to show respect for them first of all," he continued. "I don't go up to anyone and admonish them. That doesn't work. All that creates is hostility and anger. I explain that there's a choice people have in life. I explain that if you're truly not willing to kill someone close to you, then you need to value everyone's life. The number of homicides in our communities are directly traced to that lack of respect for life that too many people seem to have. That's what we're addressing with LIP."
LIP has participated in some joint protest activities with other groups such as Rev. Al Sharpton's "National Action Network," and he is very aware of the current #BlackLives Matter campaign and the nationwide push against police brutality. However he also offers a wider perspective on how LIP fits within that framework, and his views overall on the campaign.
"Yes, Black Lives Matter, no question they do," Rev. Hardwick added. "But they matter every day of the week. What happened with Michael Brown, Eric Garner, the issue of police misconduct and brutality, it's an important one. But for me, when I wake up every morning, my primary concern is making sure that there's not anyone in our community who's killing or hurting someone else. I don't want any brutal police around, but I also don't want young people killing each other, and my reality is that this is the violence that I see much more than I do a cop beating someone up."
"LIP is in this for the long haul," Rev. Hardwick continued. "We're not just out here for the moment. This violence has been epidemic in our communities for a long, long time, and it's going to take a concentrated, prolonged and consistent effort to turn that around. Plus we have other problems to tackle in our communities. Domestic violence is a huge problem. Abortion, violence in the womb. Disputes that erupt and turn into tragedy. All those things are long-term issues and they require long-term solutions."
"I'm putting pressure on our youth," Rev. Hardwick concluded. "I tell them that I can't stop anything alone, but together we can make a different. There's a spirit of activism, a spirit of change, that LIP is tapping into and building on, and it's not just in Detroit. We want to take this nationwide. We want their to be chapters of LIP everywhere. Not because it's something to build up my name or anyone else's name, but because it's a way to take control of our communities, inspire our youth, get them to be the best people they can be, and by extension turn this nation around. That's the ultimate goal for LIP, to be part of combating these evils, changing the climate and discussion, and seeing that our young people and everyone else in our community have productive and violence free lives."
(LIP members in Detroit gather every Tuesday at 5 p.m. (EST) at 10600 Puritan. They also post videos on social media that day wearing LIP T-Shirts. LIP can be reached at lipmovement.org).