More than 60 people of all ages stood together, linked hand in hand and forming a circle united in prayer.
A little girl told the boy next to her to pay attention. A middle-aged woman leading the prayer shouted out to God for help in the community, for help with the violence on the West side, for help with poverty.
After 20 minutes of prayer, a group of teenage boys wearing plain red T-shirts, like most of the other participants, beat drums so loudly the sounds of deep bass roared through the block, capturing the attention of passers-by.
This was the scene two weeks ago on the corner of Lotus and Quincy streets – and a scene played out across the Austin community as hundreds of people participated in the “100 churches, 100 blocks” project.
Every Wednesday in June, participants have been meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. on nearly 100 corners in hopes of taking back the streets, at least for these five nights. The goal is to have 100 churches or blocks participate. Last Wednesday night, more than 700 people came together on 81 corners, according to WBEZ’s Travis Truitt, who produced a story for today’s Eight Forty-Eight show.
One of the biggest gatherings has been in the 5300, 5400 and 5500 blocks of Quincy Street. Coordinator Mary Brown got dozens of people to turn out June 9 mostly through word of mouth and with the help of her “foot soldiers” who knocked on doors. With July fast approaching, Brown said her goal is to keep spreading the word and beat her record of 60-plus from a few weeks back.
“We’re trying to get leaders to be responsible, and also we’re trying to identify other outreach churches to get involved,” Brown said.
Brown, an Austin resident for 45 years, has witnessed too much drug trafficking and violence. A concern for her community propelled her to get active, especially since these issues have gotten worse over the years, she says.
With the help of co-coordinator Phillip Burke and the 15th district CAPS office, Brown said people are putting their faith in God and each other to create a safer neighborhood.
“The main thing that we’re trying to accomplish is visibility and get people out of their homes, get neighbors to socialize for a minute and say a prayer for the community and show a positive sign of loitering,” Burke said.
Michelle Welch came out to show her concern and the need for a change. She hopes children in the neighborhood can play safely outside one day.
Brown hopes that by praying and rallying on the corners, the drug dealers will have fewer places to go.