Editor and Contributing Writer
Photograph: Freddie Herpin
The concept that perhaps community unity and prayer can combine to overcome violence and depravity spread loudly across the Delta Grand Theater Tuesday night.
About 70 people gathered inside the Opelousas landmark venue Tuesday night and listened to religious messages delivered by an all-star roster of area preachers who collectively told those in attendance that there is still love to be harvested within a community that continues to combat persistent crime.
Originally scheduled as an outdoor venue on the St. Landry Parish Courthouse steps, the Unity in the Community program moved indoors to the Delta Grand, where they were told by the series of ministers that togetherness can be used an effective weapon against lawlessness.
Sponsored by Opelousas alderwoman Sherell Roberts, the brief Prayer Walk from the Courthouse to the Delta Grand featured ministers’ sermons, gospel singing and musical selections.
Roberts said he decided to organize the event after being contacted by individuals within her election district.
“People that are concerned about what is happening in our city and how it is affecting families wanted to have a program like this in order to help them heal. I know most of the ones that contacted me are very concerned, so I decided that we needed to have something like this,” Roberts said following the conclusion of the two-hour event.
Roberts told the crowd that the Prayer Walk and similar events need to be scheduled more often.
“I think this was a wonderful thing and coming together like we did tonight is something that we need to do. No, we are not perfect, but we are trying to do our best. I love Opelousas and I love the people here,” added Roberts, whose effort was backed by the other four members of the Board of Aldermen.
Opelousas Police Chief Martin McLendon acknowledged that it might be a challenge, but possibly city leaders and those they govern should instead talk more about God and the good that the community can feed off that idea.
Kerney Thomas, pastor of Life Church of Opelousas, used biblical the analogies of Moses and David as examples to illustrate that seemingly overwhelming obstacles can be overcome.
Cynthia Payne, who represented Holy Ghost Catholic Church, admitted Opelousas is currently confronted with difficulties.
However Payne added that not all that is happening in Opelousas is negative.
“There is also a lot of good going on. We just need to trust in the Lord and pray that he will continue to lead us in peace,” she said.
Eric Williams, whose organization “Guns Down, Power Up,” has established an active role in Opelousas, said it’s time for people citywide to act together in order to mitigate the effects of crime.
“We need to reach out more before these murders and violence happen. I liken what needs to be done like a vacuum cleaner. We need to put something out there that is positive. I see a lot of beautiful children and people in the city of Opelousas. They are like flowers, yet we are not seeing them,” said Williams.
Williams mentioned that individuals that he said are responsible for having events like the one at the Delta Grand were noticeably absent on Tuesday night.
“What we have to do is go into their neighborhoods. Unity will come for us if we work together to make something happening. To do that we must get everyone involved,” added Williams.
Williams said what Opelousas youth need right now are adult role models.
“When children see fighting and arguing among the adults, what do you think they are going to do? I mean adults are bringing (children) to fights. We have a lot of problems, but we are not going to overcome them by ourselves,” said Williams.