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Minister, boyfriend attacked in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park

by Conswella Bennett
Contributor
Thursday Jul 15, 2010
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A little more than a week after he and his boyfriend were attacked and robbed at gunpoint in Piedmont Park, the Rev. Joshua Noblitt is still trying to come to terms with the traumatic event.

The social justice minister at St. Mark United Methodist Church and his boyfriend were picnicking and playing cards when a group of young men robbed them on Friday, July 2. Both Noblitt and his boyfriend fought back, but the minister said their assailants asked them if they were gay before they attacked them.

Noblitt spoke to EDGE on Sunday, July 11, after church services, during which he read an open letter about the feelings he has experienced since the attack.

"If you hold this kind of stuff in, it can really be destructive," acknowledged Noblitt. "Hanging onto anger, hanging onto fear, all those things-the trauma of it."

Noblitt has had to turn to his own background-his ministry, his experience within the criminal justice system and even his work with victims of crime-for help.

"I know the ones that emerge strong after an event like this are the ones who take advantage of the community support and talk about it and try to focus it in a positive direction; so, I guess I’m trying to learn from them," noted Noblitt. "I’m just trying to focus it in a positive direction."

In an attempt to move forward and to reclaim his favorite space in the park along the rolling grassy hills near the lake along 10th Street, Noblitt is planning a community picnic this Sunday, July 18, from 3 - 6 p.m. He announced his plans in his open letter that encouraged people to bring a picnic basket and blanket.

"One step I’d like to start with is having a picnic in the park where all of this took place to begin with," wrote Noblitt. "Maybe that can be a way to move from a path of fear over to the path of love by creating new memories in that space and building new relationships that bring you Beloved Community into closer proximity."

Although the attack was a terrorizing experience for Noblitt, he said he was able to receive some comfort after authorities arrested six teenagers who range in age from 13 to 19-years-old. And from the fact he and his boyfriend fought back.

Prosecutors plan to charge four of them as adults, but Noblitt noted he has worked with adults who have committed similar crimes as those who allegedly attacked him.

"How does a 13-year-old end up in a park doing that? What incentive did they have to participate in something like that?" he asked.

Noblitt how finds himself in a unique situation-he is now a crime victim.

"You know, usually I work on the case of the defendant, not necessarily trying to get people off but making sure that they get a fair trial," noted Noblitt as he discussed how victims are sometimes left out of the process (without a voice.) "In the process of that, there are ways that you can reach out to victims and make sure that they are involved in the process. So, it’s been a unique thought process for me this week thinking about stepping into this situation from a different perspective."

Noblitt is aware, however, the attack impacted more than he and his boyfriend.

"When a crime of any kind happens, everybody’s affected by something like this," he said. "If someone is just trying to get your money they’re not really interested in your sexual orientation. They could care less if two men are lying on a blanket or whatever, but something like this does affect a wider branch of people because you’re being singled out for a particular reason."

He added he remains hopeful people won’t live in fear-and he plans to return to Piedmont Park.

"But, I do think folks need to be a little more mindful of their surroundings," added Noblitt. "The basic common sense stuff you should do anywhere."

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