BROOKLYN – On Sunday afternoon, five days after a cataclysmic earthquake Port-au-Prince, a crowd gathered outside “Savoir Faire” record shop along Nostrand Avenue in Lefferts Gardens to march, pray, and light candles for those whose lives nature snuffed on January 12.
“This is a day of gathering for people of many faiths, from many backgrounds and many places, coming together as one,” said Reverend Patrick Duggan, pastor of the Congregational Church of South Hempstead in Nassau County. “Oh God, this is a defining moment in our lives.”
In a spirit of unity that has crossed religious lines, New Yorkers across the Tri-State have joined to help their suffering brethren in Haiti. Sunday’s service in one of the neighborhoods that make up the heart of New York’s Haitian community drew mourners who had lost loved ones; their friends, neighbors, and fellow churchgoers; and strangers with no connection to Haiti who were simply moved by the images of death in the crumpled country.
“Today we are all from Haiti,” said Tony Herbert, a community activist, when it came his turn at the microphone. “No one is ever going to slight Haiti again.”
Rev. Rony Mendes of Holy Innocents in Brooklyn, which has many Haitian parishioners, praised those “who show their spirit, show their brotherhood to Haiti,” and thanked all New Yorkers for the love, time, and money sent to Haiti.
“This shows that we are one body,” Father Mendes said. “We are one on earth and we need to help each other. We are for life.”
Afterward, the throng of men, women and children then marched in a prayer procession along Nostrand Avenue chanting in both English and Creole, “I’m going to pray,” and “God bless Haiti.”
“Savoir Faire” records and Life for the World, which runs an orphanage in Haiti, had organized the prayer vigil. For many participants, the vigil and rally provided an opportunity to recount the horrible images they’d seen, donations and aid efforts made to date, and possibilities for travel to Haiti in the near future. Overall, it offered a sense of belonging at a time when so many felt so helpless.
Rabbi Yaacov Behrman said members of the Crown Heights Jewish community had driven four trucks into Haiti over the weekend, hoping to feed and otherwise help the quake’s survivors.
“People are dying in the streets waiting for medicine,” Rabbi Behrman said his volunteers reported.
He urged New Yorkers to donate to the cause of their choice.
“Five dollars, $10, can really make a difference,” he said.
Aid Efforts Under Way
Sunday’s rally was only one of numerous activities taking place in Brooklyn’s central neighborhoods, as the Haitian mobilizes to respond to the crisis. Churches, colleges, youth associations and others have all held meetings to plan or advertise relief efforts, concerts and otherwise lend support.
Ricardo Brizard, a member of the Haitian-American Students Association at Medgar Evers College nearby, said he knew of numerous colleges in the area trying to raise funds for Haiti.
“It’s very difficult because we have some members that have family members who are lost,” Brizard said. “I applaud all New Yorkers for helping Haiti in [its] time of need.”