Published September 17th, 2014 at 5:31 PM
A month after the death of Michael Brown — the allegedly unarmed black teen who was shot and killed by a white police officer — community members gathered Tuesday evening at Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri, for an interfaith prayer vigil.
The service, titled “Mother’s Prayer,” was led by Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, pastor of Ebenezer. She said this prayer vigil would be a crucial step towards taking action and healing after the death of Brown.
“There is power in prayer,” she said. “It gives you the strength to say ‘I am protecting my child, yes. I am building up my child. But I can also change what goes on in this community, and I can do it from a place of love.’”
All community members were welcome at this vigil, but mothers were the target audience. Hanna-Witherspoon explained why.
“I heard the stories from my dad of how his mother would say she had to talk to him to prevent him (from) being killed by those in authority,” she said. “Each of us as moms go through that aspect of speaking to our children about ‘This is what happens when police stop you. This is how you need to respond.’ It’s a preparation for the possibility of a negative encounter.”
Hanna-Witherspoon said that prayer is an essential part of being a black mother.
“We walk with the constant grief and knowledge that any encounter can be a negative encounter,” she said. “We rise with fear, and we go to sleep with fear.”
Prayer is essential to Hanna-Witherspoon’s plan for change, but so is action.
“Prayer with action,” she said. “Prayer that is action: showing up at the community meetings, … writing the letters, … helping to iron out new ways for police to encounter the community and for the community to encounter police.”
Hanna-Witherspoon paraphrased a statement that’s often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi when discussing the link between prayer and action: “pray at all times, and, if necessary, use words.”
Taking action is critical so more young men like Mike Brown are not lost, she said.
“Maybe this is the last time this will happen,” she said. “We need to come up with the message to make it the last time.”
Audio Slideshow: Interfaith community prayer vigil
The voices you hear are:
Kathryn Evans, community organizer at Communities Creating Opportunity
DeQuai Wilson, community member
Helen Richardson, community member
Rabbi Beryl Padoor, The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah
Slideshow by Bridgit Bowden