Despite high hopes and confidence in their community, attendees at the 2nd Annual Spiritual Night at Joseph Aubain Ballpark in Frenchtown conceded that music and art cannot stop violence.
“We need more than this. We need prayer. Only prayer changes,” said volunteer and pastor Hyacinth Turnbull.
Some children were optimistic — despite being surrounded by drugs and violence.
“[The arts] help. Music is inspiration. When you’re whiling, listen to a beat and go with it,” said Marcus Riley, a 16-year-old student at Seventh-Day Adventist School who said there’s a lot of drug use going on in his neighborhood.
Still, he said, “I make music, read, cook, dance, eat. There’s a lot to do that’s not drugs.” Riley and his friend, 12-year-old Jahmali Lewis, stay involved in school and away from crime.
Spiritual Night took place Friday evening with a better turnout than in 2010. Over 100 people joined to kick off the two-day 24th Annual Night Out Against Drugs, Crime and Violence event. At 5 p.m. Saturday, volunteers and attendees will march from Emancipation Garden to Joseph Aubain Ballpark.
The Night Out committee receives $30,000 each year from the Justice Assistance Grant for the event. All performers and vendors volunteer. This year, sponsors included the Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) and VI Prevention Committees.
Flemon Lewis, chairperson of the event committee and member of the LEPC, has assisted in organizing the Night Out since 1994. Lewis felt the integration of Spiritual Night into the event is a beneficial way of bringing the community’s churches and prayer to participants.
“If you believe in something, you won’t fall for just anything, so believe that we can make these Virgin Islands safe from this day on,” Lewis stated.
Minister and participant Gloria Williams agreed that religion is important to the rally. “Our church is near a drug haven. People come down the alleys to get drugs, and some come into the church. They listen and they leave, but some come back, and it only takes that one person who’s serious to make a change,” she said.
Several speakers mentioned and prayed for the young couple found shot to death in Anna’s Retreat last Tuesday. The tragedy is an all-too-familiar story in the Virgin Islands, one that deserves recognition at a rally promoting non-violence.
While they passed a few hours of remembrance and prayer, the echo of car alarms and an ambulance speeding past reminded attendees that violence, it seems, is never far off.