Oct. 19, 2007 — The candlelight march of 150 people down King Street in Christiansted on Thursday night was in sharp contrast to the many other parades down that street, such as St. Patrick's Day or mocko jumbies on a jump-up night.
The marchers were mostly quiet. When they spoke it was softly. A bell was rung every nine seconds marking the death of someone to domestic violence.
The marcher's thoughts were upon those who have died through domestic violence.
When they reached the area behind the Scale House, the mood remained somber.
"Today we put down all weapons of violence, today we open our hearts to love," said Mary Mingus, co-director of Women's Coalition, "World peace begins at home." she added in her opening remarks in an event to draw attention to the damage domestic violence brings to families in the Virgin Islands.
Howard Fishbein, founder of Project Help and recipient of a Hero Award, took that goal a further step when he received his award. He said, "I can't wait for the demise of the Women's Coalition. When there is no more need for it."
Volunteers and Women's Coalition workers placed a pair of shoes on a wall in between the speakers and the audience to remember the estimated 40 women and two babies who lost their lives in recent years to domestic violence.
Deceased honoree Jaheem Williams' daughter, Jahnailah Morris, placed a pair of shoes on the wall in remembrance of her mother. Williams died due to domestic violence on Feb. 23, 2006.
"I miss you so much, I miss your motherly touch." Morris said, sobbing.
The family of Virginia Ramos, also a domestic violence victim, received a plaque in her memory.
James Gunther, a young man from Brooklyn, N.Y. whose mother died at the hands of his father, read a poem he had written entitled "Why Am I Alive."
Clema Lewis, co-director of Women's Coalition, presented Ulla Neuburger with a "Shero Award." Lewis said Neuburger donated the first vehicle to the shelter for battered women.
"She steps up to the plate to help the community any way she can," Lewis said.
Lawrence Neilson accepted a Hero award posthumously for his father Robert Vaughn, a community activist and photographer who touched many lives on St. Croix.
"Domestic violence is a very big problem in this small community," Nedarrey Knight, from the Women's Coalition, said.
Nikki Plaskett was at the rally in remembrance of her godsister, Kemba Hendricks, who died in 1992 and her friend Natasha Cummings who died in 2004. She was also there for the good of her current relationship with Arthur Marshall and their son Nobel Marshall.
"I came to improve and deal with the real issues in our relationship." Marshall said. "This is a positive way to guide my actions — violence is way too prevalent," he added.
People gathered in a circle and counted down 178 in attendance, but earlier there had been than 200.
Mingus reminisced about the first rally and march in 1981 saying there were only 20 at that "Take Back the Night."
The evening ended with everyone singing "One Love" by Bob Marley.
Domestic violence happens between members of the same family or persons involved in a close relationship. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence: black, white, Asian, and Hispanic, rich, poor, old, young, men and women. But the majority of victims are women.
The Women's Coalition of St. Croix has been offering services to victims of rape, domestic violence, child sexual assault and other crimes since 1981. For more information about the Women's Coalition, call 773-9272.
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