ELKHART — The late afternoon sunlight shone through the circles of a sculpture at St. James AME Church and onto a group gathered for a “Love Walk” to promote community and unity on Monday evening, August 26.
The circles and the sunlight gave credence to the power of coming together to pray and march for goodness to prevail over evil, and more than 50 community members did just that.
Led by pastors from local congregations, the group walked from the church — some singing hymnals, some holding hands — all with the goal of bringing the community together to end senseless violent crimes against each other.
Dannell Brown, pastor at AGAPE Missionary Baptist Church in Elkhart, was one of the pastors who led the walk.
“A lot of the things that occur in the city are reactionary, and we didn’t want to be reactionary, we wanted to be proactive,” said Brown regarding the genesis behind the march. “So what we wanted to do was march at a time when there was no pending violence that had occurred, but unfortunately afterwards we did have a violent incident where one of my members by the name of Braxton was murdered.”
Braxton Barhams, 16, an AGAPE congregation member, was shot and killed near his home by another teen on June 29.
“And so, it just reinforced our need to have a presence in our community, because I’ve always gone on the adage that the only thing necessary for evil to prosper is for good to do nothing. So a lot of times we were finding that good was doing nothing, until which time bad had already acted. So what we tried to do is do was to something in a proactive manner,” said Brown.
Brown said that AGAPE uses the concept of “unconditional love” — the Greek meaning of the word Agape is love. “It is the love that God has toward mankind, that is not dependent upon what mankind does, but is dependent upon what mankind can be,” he said. “And so as a congregation we try to model that after Dr. King and Gandhi.”
The walkers made several stops — including Roosevelt Park, Barham’s murder site, and the Tolson Center — to pray together.
Berlinda Tunstell lost her cousin, Braxton, and was walking with other members of his family. “We just need to get together. If we all get together and be a community, then we can help each other out, help our children and hopefully cure some of the violence,” said Tunstell, who believes that community is not what it once was “because the family structure is broken.”
“You can’t even tell kids what to do. There was a time when I was a child, a neighbor would get you, or somebody at the church would get you, and then when you get home, your parents are going to get you, too. You didn’t mouth off to grown people,” said Tunstell.
Pamela McGregor, an AGAPE congregation member, was out front during the walk and her voice sang God’s praise. McGregor thinks the key to ending gun violence in the community is unity.
“If we as a group of people have something to live for, and pull together and have unity, then I think a lot of the violence will stop,” said McGregor.