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Men of Valor to reach out to troubled young men

From left Esther Project's BiancBishop; Men Valor Roy Jones Josiah Lillard Freddy Phillips Isaiah Lillard Zakarias Phillips. | Judy Masters~

From left, Esther Project's Bianca Bishop; Men of Valor Roy Jones, Josiah Lillard, Freddy Phillips, Isaiah Lillard and Zakarias Phillips. | Judy Masterson ~ Sun-Times Media

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The March of Jericho will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. July 26 through Aug. 1 in violence-prone “hot spots.”

Men of Valor meets at 1:30 p.m. every Saturday in North Chicago. Visit the Men of Valor Web site at For more information, call Josiah Lillard at (224) 321-6464.

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Updated: July 22, 2013 4:56PM

Men of Valor, a group founded by a 20-year-old Starbucks barista, will march and pray for seven straight days along North Chicago streets this summer in a demonstration of support for embattled young men.

The March of Jericho, unanimously approved by the North Chicago City Council on Monday, June 17, will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. July 26 through Aug. 1 in violence-prone “hot spots” including Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Broadway and Park avenues and Jackson and 14th streets.

Josiah Lillard of Waukegan, the barista who works in Lake Bluff and takes the time to notice when his customers or coworkers are “hurting or sad,” said the march is aimed at tearing down the bad — violence, drunkenness and drug abuse — and rebuilding the good — peace, self-respect and prosperity.

“All the bad stuff will change when people can feel the love,” said Lillard, who grew up in North Chicago. “When they know the community has got their back.”

Men of Valor took shape in 2012 after Lillard and other young men from Mt. Moriah Christian Church in Waukegan worked up a step-dancing routine for a Black History Month performance.

“We enjoyed our bond and that same month decided to form an organization to spread the Gospel and impact and change the lives of young men,” Lillard said.

A kind of spiritual fraternity, the group, which includes a core of five, meets regularly for Bible study and recreation. Each member works to hone his particular talents. Lillard is an artist and poet. His younger brother Isaiah, 17, is the group DJ. Zakarias Phillips, 32, sings and dances. His brother Freddy, 26, is a songwriter, rapper and drummer.

“These young men are my role models,” said MOV member Roy “Brother RJ” Jones, 36, who served 18 years in prison in Michigan for assault with intent to commit murder.

“Street cred, there’s no such thing,” Jones said. “This group received me with open arms. They keep me on track. We come together to fellowship. We can see each other in the light of what men can become.”

Men of Valor hopes to start different chapters. It has spawned a group for women, the Esther Project, and the two groups will grow under the not-for-profit Mustard Seed.

Jones called Men of Valor a “group of misfits,” men who grew up with intermittent or no fathering.

“A lot of guys are falling into gang violence and drug dealing cause that’s what’s glorified in the music they listen to,” said Freddy Phillips, who laces his rap with positive messages. “They don’t have a father figure at home to teach them right from wrong. To reach them, we have to be an example for what’s right.”

“You’re always imparting,” Lillard said. “You’re always an example for good or for bad.”

The group also wants to work to bring together churches, which they hope to involve in the march, and to take up service projects throughout the city. “We’re going to be a continuous presence,” Lillard said.

“MOV is not trying to do it by ourselves,” Jones said. “Every time we do something, we want to blow the trumpet and get others involved.”

Plans for the march call for a drumline and drill team.

“We’re trying to make as much noise as we possibly can,” Jones said. “We want to make so much noise as we’re walking that people don’t have any choice but to come out of their homes, and ask ‘What is that?’ and ‘Why?’ We want the big basses. We want to pound on stuff, bang on things. We’re saying ‘We know you’re out there and we’re here to help.’”

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