Nine months after the 10,000 Men movement was launched with great fanfare, the organization that vowed to mount a massive campaign to retake Philadelphia's crime-ridden streets has fielded only four patrol units totaling about 200 men.
Some of the thousands who attended the organization's initial rally Oct. 21 said the project had failed to capitalize on the outpouring of enthusiasm for organizing African American men into crime-fighting patrols. They say the movement has lost momentum.
"There was an image after the event that there was going to be this massive amount of people out on the streets, and that didn't happen," said Bilal Qayyum, a community activist who helped organize the 10,000 Men project.
"Clearly there should have been way more men out in the streets by now."
Qayyum said he was no longer involved with the movement because he wanted to devote time to his own antiviolence venture, the Father's Day Rally Committee.
"It was sort of disappointing," said Frederick L. Whiten, an educator who operates a consultancy, Because Mentoring Works. "Everyone was excited. There were so many brothers out there - so much love - it was infectious. It was almost like we were an army ready to go to battle."
Norm Bond, a spokesman for 10,000 Men: A Call to Action, acknowledged "logistical" and funding challenges but said the project was still active.
He said the organizers had found that not so many men were eager to join potentially dangerous field units.
As a result, the project seems to have gradually shifted its focus to encouraging men to become more active as volunteers in other organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Precisely when the mission shifted is difficult to pinpoint because organizers do not fully acknowledge that anything has changed since the massive inaugural rally at Temple University's Liacouras Center.
"This whole notion that this organization would essentially be a quasi-military organization that went from neighborhood to neighborhood - that whole depiction was never what our goal was," said radio personality E. Steven Collins, one of about 10 men who still meet monthly to plan the group's activities.
Outwardly, the organization appears to have stalled. It opened an office at 1501 Christian St. in a property owned by Kenny Gamble, the entertainment mogul and one of the organization's high-profile founders. But with no paid staff, the headquarters is open only by appointment, Bond said.
And the 10,000 Men Web site (www.10000menphilly.com) has not been updated in months. It still headlines an April 5 Community Action Fair to encourage volunteerism, the organization's biggest public event since its inaugural rally.
The organizers deny the project has sputtered, and say many of its accomplishments have gone unnoticed.
"I don't think we've lost momentum," Collins said. "I think there is a majority - a huge, vast number of men who participated and who I am in contact with via my radio show and in public appearances - who are as committed today as they've ever been."
It's true that the 10,000 Men movement had multiple missions from the start, and its overarching goal was to encourage African American men to become more involved in their communities and with their families. But its novel call for street patrols of unarmed civilians was what attracted national attention, and what raised the most worries.
Some law-enforcement officials and Mayor Nutter expressed concern that untrained - and unvetted - members of foot patrols might come into conflict with armed gang members and corner drug dealers, and the organization decided to take a cautious approach, Bond said.
Joe Certaine, former city managing director, devised an elaborate training manual that was reviewed by then-Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson, who was also a founder. The group expended much effort to devise uniforms and an African-shield logo. It identified members of the "vanguard" - those with experience in law enforcement, the military or Town Watch - who would lead the street patrols.
But Bond said the organization realized that many volunteers had no stomach for participating in the street units. A survey of 2,000 men who attended the inaugural rally found that most were interested in serving as role models in their communities through other activities, he said.
"A large number stated they wanted to be involved in neighborhood cleanup - things of that nature," Bond said.
Still, the organization's public position remained fixed on the foot patrols.
In late November, reporters were invited to watch 100 leaders of the vanguard engage in the group's first "field training" exercise in Point Breeze, where pamphlets were distributed on a sunny Saturday morning.
The organizers promised to emerge in greater numbers when the weather warmed and the threat of crime increased.
"We know the whole nation is looking at us," Johnson said at the time. "We want to do it step by step, do it correctly." He did not return a telephone message last week.
The expanded patrols never materialized.
Anthony Murphy, executive director of the city's Town Watch Integrated Services and a leader of the 10,000 Men organization, said "a couple hundred" men had enrolled in foot-patrol units in the northwest, north-central, west and south parts of the city.
The West Philadelphia group patrols every other Saturday morning for three hours to distribute literature, said Daniel C. Polhill, the leader of the unit. He said he was undeterred by criticism.
"I see positive things in what I'm doing, getting out on the street," said Polhill, a paralegal. "We're not Macy's or Gimbels - not that big, yet."
Other than the foot patrols, Collins said, the movement's accomplishments were difficult to measure. He said the organization raised awareness, increased volunteerism, and inspired similar movements in cities such as Baltimore and Milwaukee. He said it formed a bridge connecting an array of nonprofit "men-driven initiatives."
The organizers this year have also taken on a more active political role, encouraging the construction industry and unions to hire more minorities in recognition that a lack of jobs is a major contributor to crime. The group is also participating in a voter-registration project.
Despite not having much of a presence on the streets, Collins and Bond said, the movement may have contributed to the reduction in homicides and violent crime because it has encouraged black men to reduce hostilities. The city's murder rate began dropping in the autumn, and is down about 20 percent from a year ago.
"A lot of that started when we launched this event, not to say we're taking all the credit for it," Bond said.
Representatives of several nonprofit organizations said the 10,000 Men movement had attracted more volunteers to their ranks.
Lawrence "Buddy" Martin, administrator of the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee, said the movement had inspired 65 men to sign up to be block captains or join existing block organizations.
Uva Coles, a vice president of Big Brothers Big Sisters Southeastern Pennsylvania, said she had received about 60 mentor applications from the movement, most of which came in April at the community fair. "If we were to get one volunteer, that's a win for us," Coles said.
Some men who attended the initial rally but were discouraged by a lack of communication from the 10,000 Men said the experience nonetheless had inspired them to become more involved on their own.
Richard Leach, 31, of Southwest Philadelphia, said he had attended several organizational meetings at different recreation centers before he lost interest. So he devoted himself to serving as a role model and mentor to young offenders he guards in his job at Delaware County Prison.
Mark Ensley, 35, who works for the Institute for the Development of African American Youth, said he had felt "stiff-armed" by the older men who dominated the vanguard. He said they had been focused on paramilitary-style drills that had little meaning for Ensley's contemporaries in the hip-hop generation.
"These veterans of the civil-rights movement, they are just a little stuck in their ways of doing things," Ensley said.
But he said he had been inspired to increase his volunteer efforts to work with youth. The 10,000 Men experience, he said, only demonstrated the importance of self-reliance.
"There are 10,000 men out there, working on our own," he said. "We can't wait. We can't depend upon somebody else to lead us. We all have to step up. I think that is the positive lemonade being made out of these lemons."