By Tom Travis
Residents, pastors, and politicians gathered on Flint’s north side today to pray. The prayer event came in the wake of a recent wave of homicides in Flint.
“We’re here today to cover the neighborhood in prayer, and encourage the community to look back to God,” said Pastor Chris Martin of Cathedral of Faith church.
A crowd of about 30 assembled in the parking lot of The Cathedral of Faith Church to walk through the neighborhood and pray. Two police vehicles escorted the group from the parking lot south on Dupont Street turning right on Home Avenue encircling the area of a recent homicide. There were five Flint police officers present including Police Chief Terence Green.
Four murdered in Flint over the weekend, including a 10-month old sleeping in his home
The crowd gathered in response to a string of four murders, investigators believe may all be connected, within the last weekend.
Curdetruis Keaton-Williams, 23, was murdered on the 600 block of East Pulaski Avenue. Then, later, on the same street, 10-month-old Romelo Jones Jr. and his grandmother Belinda Hart, 45, were shot while inside their home sleeping.
The final murder victim, Naomi Anthony, 25, was found shot dead in a city park behind Hasselbring Community Center where today’s prayer march occurred.
The string of four weekend murders brought Flint’s homicide total to 60 for 2020, up from 43 in 2019.
A press release sent out before the prayer event said, “Our city is experiencing a hike in violent crimes, what happened over the holiday is inexcusable and horrendous. We have a responsibility to one another, to stand up when something is wrong.
“The church has to speak out and pray, we cannot just sit back and allow violence to overtake our city,” Pastor Martin said.
The praying crowd continued through the 1st Ward neighborhood past Hasselbring Community Center, heading north on Sally Court up to the intersection of Chatham Drive and Sally Court. The crowd walked down a sidewalk that cuts through a field to the place where murder victim Naomi Anthony was found Dec 26.
Several lit candles memorialized the blood-stained spot on the sidewalk where Anthony last laid. One person brought helium filled star shaped balloons and released them after a brief time of prayer. Many could be heard praying out loud and weeping. Some of the crowd grasped each other’s hands and others hugged each other, praying and crying.
Pastor Martin explained, “Today we’re going to be walking and praying and covering this portion of the 1st Ward with prayer. Murder is always unacceptable but especially when it happens right around places of worship. The young lady that lost her life the other day was found right here behind the church near Chatham Drive and Sally Court. Our property runs right up against where she was found.”
“What we want to do today is encourage the community to look back to God. We’re in a pandemic and we got a lot of issues going on and we need people to have hope and faith again,” Martin said. “So that’s what this prayer is about. It’s about covering our neighborhood. Praying against these spirits that cause divisiveness of murder. We’re trying to get people organized back to praying,” Martin pleaded.
EVM asked Pastor Martin what he believed the community could do to overcome this spree of violence. “We all gotta come together. Churches have been working together for a while now. We need people to believe again and be involved in their community.
“We have community closets and we’re feeding people. We’re trying to get people back into the mission of prayer. People have to look back to God and that’s what we’re trying to spur.”
Pastor Martin recalled another prayer effort during the summer in response to a string of 12 shootings six of which were at a pop-up event at Hallwood Plaza at Clio and Pierson Roads the last weekend of July 2020. Six of the 12 weekend shootings occured at the Hallwood Plaza pop-up event. Pastor Marin said, “We had the Hallwood plaza incident. We had 45 pastors come together and we went out and offered prayer in a mile and a half radius and crime took a decrease.
“Now it’s spiking up again and so here we are again. This is not going to be the last thing we do. This has to be a concerted effort. We are encouraging churches in other wards to come together. Come out and make a difference,” he said.
Speaking from the back of a pick up truck in the church parking lot Martin said, “These church buildings may be somewhat cold, but the church is the people. We have to be out here on the streets to let people know that prayer still works.”
“Today we are going to shout our prayers and believe that God will turn things around,” he said.
Quoting scripture Pastor Martin said, “‘Where two or three are gathered there I am in their midst.’ Well, look around. There’s more than three of us here today. What we have here today is unity, no criticism, unity.
At the end of the prayer march Councilperson Mays told EVM, “This is the area I represent. I know some of the family and I have connections to them. And it’s always good to pray.
“We need more police on the streets and we need generations brought up in church. And of course, there are too many guns out here. When ever the pastors want to pray I’m going to take time and stop to pray.”
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.