By Tia Lynn Ivey
Prayer, unity, and love was the message at Saturday’s NAACP prayer vigil in Town Park.
The Morgan County Branch of the NAACP gathered local pastors, politicians, activists and everyday community members to pray and talk together about overcoming racism last Saturday morning.
Each speaker urged the crowd to lean on faith, prayer, and love as they carry on the work of justice and creating a better society for all people.
“This is the first phase of what we hope will birth a community that will unify,” said Lonnie Brown of the Morgan County NAACP, who urged the crowd to talk and listen to others outside of their social circles. “Young, old, black, white, Jew, Gentile, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Protestant, Democrat or Republican, none of us have all the right answers. We must continue to dialogue, to listen, to advocate, to speak up and speak out, to make our voices heard for unity and not divisiveness.”
Brown encouraged the crowd to find positive and peaceful ways to unite the community. “This is the first step to action. It is the goal of this event to invite you to join us on our next move to action,” said Brown.
Madison Mayor Fred Perriman spoke about the need to live out beliefs in everyday life.
“This city belongs to all of us. Because all of us are under the hands of the Almighty God,” said Perriman. “It doesn’t matter how long we march, it doesn’t matter where we march, and it doesn’t matter how long we talk about racism but what does matter is what we say to ourselves, ‘I can make a difference.’ That difference will not come until all of us start to have a conversation with somebody you have not had a conversation with,” said Perriman. “Peace, justice and love begins with love. I challenge every one of you out there this morning, invite someone to love that doesn’t look like you and have conversation with them…We can sing all day ‘To God be the glory,’ but until we live it and until we walk it, the difference will not be made.”
Demarius Brinkley, a political activist for Fair Fight Action, spoke about being raised in Madison by his great-grandmother and how she instilled prayer and faith into him that he still clings to today.
“There is something about faith that will continue to get us through,” said Brinkley.
Brinkley said he longs for the day that society can “funeralize” racism, poverty, and injustice.
“We are standing in the work of Jesus when we are standing in the work of justice,” said Brinkley. “When you uproot structures that do harm to other people, you are doing the work of God. Jesus has shown us he was for the disinherited and the dispossessed.”
Jami Edwards, another political activist, spoke to the crowd about putting their faith into action for the fight against injustice and racism.
“We also know that faith without works is dead and that we show our faith by our actions,” said Edwards. “Unity is a verb. Love is a verb. Hope is a verb. Justice and liberty for all is not a destination, it is a daily commitment. Are you ready to make that commitment? Are you ready to take action?”
She urged the crowd to use their gifts and talents to advance equity, justice and unity and to dismantle systemic racism. She also urged the crowd to educate themselves about systemic racism and read a wide variety of black authors to help understand multiple perspectives.
During Saturday’s vigil, Pastor Bonny Patman of Indian Creek Baptist Church offered a prayer for unity. Pastor Gardy Mosley from Madison’s First United Methodist Church offered a prayer of love. Pastor Aaron Carter of Bethlehem Baptist Church delivered a prayer for hope. Pastor Kevin Burroughs, from the Torch Church in Madison also opened the event with prayer. Minister Kathy Hubbard from Union Springs Baptist Church sang a gospel song. Walter Butler III served as the event’s MC.