NORWALK, Conn. – The Rev. Cathy Jones stood in front of about 200 people in South Norwalk on Saturday, talking to God. "Father, we come because there is justice that needs to be done, Father," she said. "One of your young sons had to die, Father, for us to come together, for us to speak out."
Jones' opening prayer at Grace Baptist Church followed chants of "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now." The chant had been repeated over and over again by the crowd as they marched from Calvary Baptist Church, less than a mile away.
Walkers were participating in what was called a "March for Justice" held in support of the late Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old who was fatally shot Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., by George Zimmerman, a man keeping watch over the neighborhood Martin was visiting. Zimmerman has not been arrested.
The march, with police escort, was followed by a rally at Grace Baptist.
"Everything that we see says that Zimmerman is guilty," said the Rev. Lindsay Curtis, pastor at Grace Baptist. "He, like anyone else, deserves a trial. That's what we want, a trial. We don't want him walking around as if he has done nothing. For too long, black life has not meant much."
Curtis said his heart was broken. "In this country, for too long, it remains a shame that it is difficult to drive, walk, even sit sometimes while black," he said.
"Racism is still on the rise, so we must take a stand, but most of all we must come together," said the Rev. Nellie Mann, who organized the march and rally.
Curtis said he other pastors had gotten many e-mails and phone calls, and he is proud of his community.
"We have never been hurt as deeply as we are right now," he said. "We have had much happen in our city that we have had to be reactive to, but for once we get to be proactive. ... This is not a message to our mayor. This is not a message to our police. This is a message to our community that this ought not, should not, could not, ever happen here."
"In Norwalk 2012, we're going to be one of the first communities to say out loud that we are graduating from 'We Shall Overcome,' " said the Rev. Ken Dubose, a reference to the rallying cry from the 1960s civil rights movement. "Why? Because we are ready to overcome with the realization that we have more work to do."
"Let's strive to be part of the solution," said the Rev. Jeffery Ingraham of Calvary Baptist. "We will hold the mayor, we will hold the Police Department responsible. But we will do our part."