Residents Celebrate MLK Day Through Prayer, Parades

By Kathryn Eastburn, The Daily News

Residents, clergy and elected officials gathered Monday at St. Vincent’sHouse forthe annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Prayer Circle, offering songs and prayers for a better Galveston and a better nation.

St. Vincent’s House Board President Bonnie Farmer moderated the event that drew about 100 people, including District 23 state Rep. Mayes Middleton and GalvestonCity Councilwoman Amy Bly.

The crowd that usually gathers on the outside courtyard huddled inside to escape cold January temperatures.

“We do a whole lot with very little aroundhere,” Farmer said as she introduced theSt. Vincent’s House staff to visitors.

St. Vincent’s House, an institution of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, has served disadvantaged Galvestonians for more than 60 years, providing social services casemanagement, emergency assistance, transportation services and health care in a collaborative arrangement with University of Texas Medical Branch medical students and faculty doctors. The center served more than 15,000 people in 2017, officials said.

The Rev. Shirlyn Thomas of God’s Kingdom and Restoration Ministries of Galveston and her husband, The Rev. Manuel Thomas, offered words on strengthening the community, this year’s prayer circle theme.

“This is the only time of the year that we all come together to pray,” Shirlyn Thomassaid. “I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl.”

She offered a prayer for the community to unify around affordable housing and “lawand order that protects and serves.”

“We need to become a true community that reflects the best of each of us,” she said.“We must look beyond our biases to see each other.”

Rabbi Matt Cohen of Congregation B’nai Israel delivered an extended blow of theshofar or ram’s horn, a Jewish tradition, reminding those gathered that the eventwas a call to prayer and, equally as important, a call to action.

Looking around the crowded room, Cohen observed that despite an observation by aprevious speaker about the diverse crowd, there were too many faces missing to describe it as a true microcosm of the community.

The majority of those gathered were African-Americans. Few representatives from the Latino community, the fastest growing demographic in Galveston and the county, were in evidence.

Guests formed a circle around the meeting room and offered a series of prayers.

The Rev. Ray Pinard of Moody Methodist Church led the circle in two verses of “This Little Light of Mine,” referencing a Ball High School baccalaureate ceremony tradition.

Middleton, a successful businessman elected to office in November, offered a prayerthanking God for “sending King to us so that every child in America knows that life,liberty, property and, especially, opportunity are rights and promises for all of God’schildren.”

Some in the circle offered thanks for the rich history of Galveston. “Thank you, God, for my birthday!” one little girl said.

“Thank you, Lord, that I am still living and was privileged to march with Dr. King,” said Yvonne Wilson of Galveston. Wilson participated in the 1963 March on Washington in a demonstration near Chicago where, she said, many threats were issued against marchers.

Bujo Waddell, a professor at Galveston College, told the story of seeing King on theUniversity of Texas campus just two years before the civil rights leader’s assassination.

“Dr. King said, ‘We’ve come a long, long way and we’ve got a long, long way to go,’” Waddell said.

“Well, since then, we’ve come a long way and we’ve still got a way to go.”

The Rev. Edward Thompson, formerly of Liberia, a board member at St. Vincent’s and associate rector at Trinity Episcopal Church, gave the benediction.

“We gather here to remember that some came to America on the Mayflower and some came in the holds of slave ships,” he said.

“My sisters and brothers, life is short. Make haste to love and bekind.”

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