Hundreds show up for Roanoke Prays, although one key demographic missing

Faith leaders in the Roanoke Valley called vigil in response to violence

ROANOKE, Va. – About 250 people gathered Friday night in Roanoke to do one simple thing - pray. 

Local faith leaders across the religious spectrum organized the vigil in response to yet another homicide last weekend, the ninth this year. They're hoping faith can be the fix.

The organizers of Roanoke Prays, said their call to action was simple. They asked people to join them in a fast in the days leading up to the event and to bring themselves and any other so-called prayer warriors to Melrose Park for action.

The sound of hope hung in the air as singers belted into the microphone, like the sun's rays hanging in the air as it dipped below the horizon. Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd led the charge to bring people together for Roanoke Prays.

"They are grieving, you know? There is unrest and there's anxiety and they were really glad to come together for this unity," White-Boyd said.

Last weekend's shooting death of Salonya Evans was the city's ninth homicide of the year. And with a little less than half a year left to go, the violence is bringing faith leaders to their knees.

"Where there is no justice, there is no peace, guns down, prayers up," Bishop Jamaal Jackson, who was Evans' pastor, said. "Guns down, prayers up!"

Those at the vigil prayed for unity and an end to violence in a packed basketball court at Melrose Park. The group crossed faiths and skin color, although one demographic was missing.

"The people that we really wanted to come would not come and we know that but we wanted the prayer warriors to come out and pray for the city," White-Boyd said.

That's young people, some where there and others watched on social media live streams, but organizers wanted more. White-Boyd said the young people are the ones doing the shooting and they're the ones that need to hear the message.

Macklyn Mosely is a young adult and a community activist in Roanoke. He said he too had hoped to see more people his age there, but he was encouraged by those who did come and hopes the message can reach those who didn't come.

"Honestly my prayer is that they would hear what was said tonight and I don't know how they're going to hear it. Maybe someone goes home from what happened tonight, the experience that happened tonight and they go tell that 20-year-old," Mosely said.

The prayer felt good to those at the event, but, they know it can't save crimes alone. They're hoping the no-snitch culture comes to an end and they're imploring those that may have information about crimes to come forward.

"If we can change the heart and mind of one person to talk to the police and let them know what is happening, maybe we can get some justice on some of these unsolved cases," White-Boyd said.

The Roanoke Prays group is working hand-in-hand with Roanoke Vice-Mayor and his task force on gun violence. The two together hoper to host more events this summer, including vigils and community walks, to keep their message going strong.

About the Author: