Pastor Rimsky Toussaint of Tabernacle of Glory in St. Albans stood before an assembled crowd of mourners gathered at the rear of the King Manor Museum in Rufus King Park in downtown Jamaica Tuesday evening. The crowd held thin white candles, cupping their hands around the wick to shield the flames from the wind.
The crowd was assembled to mark the tragedies of the past week, including the police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, as well as the murder of five police officers in Dallas.
“We know the devil is at work,” Toussaint said, the heads of the crowd bowed in prayer. “And we know that all that can stop him is intercessions.”
The Queens County Young Democrats had organized the vigil in short order as a place for Queens residents to express the sadness and anger that the brutality of the previous week had stirred. Franck Joseph, a youth minister and community advocate, helped to organize the vigil and guided the ceremony. He expressed his grief over the futility of violence by drawing an analogy to the Biblical story of Cain, who killed his brother Abel.
“Cain is forever marked. And when we act out of hate, we are forever marked,” he said, and noted that Queens needed to draw strength from its diversity to act as a beacon for other damaged communities. “Queens needs to be a model for the rest of the United States.”
The crowd grew in numbers as the evening progressed. In addition to community and faith leaders, elected officials such as Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis), state Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) and Public Advocate Letitia James were in attendance. James told the crowd in her brief remarks that the violence should not sway the forward momentum of progress for all communities.
“Though these violent acts may seem decisive or final, we can dictate the terms of our common future,” she said. “Our fight to support police officers and our fight for civil rights are not mutually exclusive.”
Comrie spoke about the need to return to a more “prayerful community.”
“We need to communicate and be honest with each other,” he said. “We are all leaders in our own right. The fact that you’re here tonight means you’re a leader.”
Many at the vigil stressed the need for continued action and engagement, in addition to remembering the dead and injured.
“When you go home tonight, your goal tomorrow should be to make things better for the next person,” Hyndman said in her brief remarks.
Nantasha Williams, who is running in the race for the late Barbara Clark’s vacant state Assembly seat, spoke about the need to stay involved.
“My hope is more people will be more involved in community engagement,” she said. “I think we cannot go back to normal the next week.”
Joseph echoed these concerns. He said that many point to legendary civil rights figures and question where those figures are today. He said the direct comparison was misguided.
“All those great leaders, they were never by themselves,” he said, stressing the need for people to become involved. “It is your duty as a human being. It is your duty to be there in the trenches. We are the people we were looking for.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona
©2016 Community News Group
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