Unfazed by Saturday's blistering heat, Nichelle Landry stood before the crowd gathered in front of her and proclaimed faith in God as the best weapon in the fight against Baton Rouge’s plague of violence.
As she preached and the Holy Spirit filled her heart, a pair of other spirits crossed her mind, one from no more than a block away.
Landry’s brother, Rory S. Banks, was shot and killed 15 years ago from just down the street from where Landry was standing. And her son, Michael Deante “Tay” Hawkins, 27, was slain by a bullet three years ago as he calmly walked away from an altercation in the Gardere Lane area.
“We have to do more than we are doing,” Landry implored, choking up as she recalled the painful memories. “We can’t keep burying our children, people of God.”
Landry, pastor at Baton Rouge-based Victory International Ministries, helped lead a prayer walk and rally against crime Saturday through the neighborhood surrounding McKinley High School, an area that was the scene of some brutal murders earlier this month.
'Brutal' summer of violence in BR continues: 6 slain in past week
In the last week, six people have been shot to death in Baton Rouge, according to officials.
On Sept. 8, Donovan Cummings, 49, and Harold Anthony, 36, were fatally shot after multiple people jumped out of a car and chased them down Thomas H. Delpit Drive. Later that day, David Walker, 68, was found shot to death in his car on Seneca Street. Walker lived next door to where Cummings and Anthony were killed, and his house was later destroyed in a fire that was ruled an arson.
Victory International Ministries is already planning more events similar to Saturday’s prayer rally, Landry said. The organization is working with other groups to hold a citywide baptism on Oct. 1 at McKowen Missionary Baptist Church and a South Baton Rouge cleanup project on Oct. 28.
“Two Sundays ago, the Holy Spirit said to me, ‘Enough is enough,’” Landry said.
A group of about 30 people joined Landry on Saturday. A host of other pastors, including the Rev. Dale Flowers from New Sunlight Baptist Church and Pastor Devin J. Wright from New Ark Baptist Church, were there for the walk.
Elected officials, including state Reps. C. Denise Marcelle and Pat Smith also marched in solidarity. Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker missed the walk but met the group at their concluding rally after attending the funeral of Donald Smart, a popular Louie’s Café worker who was gunned down a half a mile from the 24-hour diner.
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Update: Sept. 20, 2017
The crowd first congregated on East Grant Street near its intersection with Thomas H. Delpit Drive. As noon struck, the group walked up Delpit Drive, hooking a right on Buchanan Street and Tennessee Street before turning back on Grant.
The sun seared them all, but the group fought through the heat to march in the name of justice and Jesus. They carried signs with messages like “Enough is enough … taking it all back” and “Baton Rouge Strong #UnitedWeStand.”
“Hallelujah,” they chanted as they walked. “Thank you for not giving up on us, oh God,” said Shanika Stewart, a “prophetess” with Active Faith Christian Center.
After the walk, a rally didn’t break out so much as a series of sermons. Speaker after speaker walked up to a portable microphone and beseeched the people there to find faith in God — and themselves — to overcome injustice and fight violence.
“We need redemption right now, oh God,” Wright said.
Marcelle and Smith both told the crowd it’s up to them to make changes happen in their community — and to hold elected officials accountable to speed up the process. Homicides are a disease, Marcelle said, that stretches across the parish.
“I can’t touch everybody, but it’s up to each one of us to reach one and teach one,” Marcelle said. “It’s up to you.”
Although Landry fought back tears as she recalled the deaths of her brother and son, she was smiling again by the end of the rally. She raised her hand to the sky and bounced on her feet as the crowd around her prayed.
“Revival is coming,” Landry said. “God is speaking.”
Article Baton Rouge marchers plea for end to violence at anti-crime rally, prayer walk compiled by www.theadvocate.com