By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Although he couldn’t help but be a little disappointed at the turnout, Pastor Jamel Frye said the success of the Family & Friends Day — held Saturday, September 23, at Houston Avery Park and initially advertised as a rally against gun violence — can’t be measured in numbers.
Atmore and the surrounding area have experienced more than a dozen gun-related incidents this year. They range from one in which nobody was injured, to four homicides.
Only about three dozen folks gathered at the park’s baseball field for what turned into more of a revival meeting, although about a dozen more sat in their vehicles in the parking lot as the evening progressed.
Pastors and others from Bay Minette, Mobile and Huntsville came, as did those from Milton and Cantonment; Louisville, Kentucky; and Clarksville, Tennessee. There just weren’t very many there from Atmore.
“If only two or three gather in His name, He is in the midst,” said Frye, who was joined by two others as he handed out flyers at two apartment complexes and at the “five corners” intersection of Carver Street and Martin Luther King Drive prior to the rally. “I wish more folks would have come, because this is a state of emergency.”
The Rev. Cletis Walker Sr., pastor of Gaines Chapel AME Church, agreed during his opening prayer.
“If there ever was a time when we needed prayer, we need prayer right now,” he said.
Neither Mayor Jim Staff, who Frye said “contributed” to the event, nor any member of the city council were there, nor were any police officers. Frye had requested during the September 11 council meeting that city council and members of the police force try to attend.
Also noticeably missing were young people. Frye’s four daughters and an individual who sang near the end of the service were the only people under the age of 30 who were inside the ballpark during the event.
The small audience clapped and sang along with Frye, Paulette German, Edwina English and others, and there were occasional shouts of “amen” and “hallelujah” as the various preachers delivered their remarks.
Pastor Dwight Boykin of Bay Minette said pastors and officials of all area churches would get better results if they would “not be afraid to extend the ministries beyond the walls” of their churches, and several individuals gave personal testimonies to demonstrate how lives can be turned around through adherence to God’s word.
Pastor Dejuan Knight, who traveled from Louisville to support his personal friend’s effort, said prayer is the key to peace in the city.
“Maybe we should walk down the worst streets of Atmore, Alabama, and pray that God show some mercy on those streets,” he said. “We should pray that God would jam some guns, hold that crazy man back from doing that dastardly thing he wants to do.
“Your prayers can keep some girl from getting raped; your prayers can keep some young man from getting shot and killed; your prayers can keep some young man from going to prison for the rest of his life. May our prayers make a difference in this city.”
Frye asserted that “the essence of this whole meeting is to bring awareness of the violence and drugs that are sweeping Atmore,” not to gain any notoriety or personal benefit.
“I didn’t do this for any accolades,” he said. “I did this because I love Atmore and I’m raising my children here. I want Atmore to be a safer place.”