Hartford – A longtime violence prevention activist, Brother Carl Hardrick recalled a young man he was called to see at Saint Francis Hospital. He went upstairs and saw the poor state the young man was in.
After seeing him, Hardwick sensed how serious his condition was and even told the doctor that he didn’t think the young man would survive.
The young man died as a result of community violence.
The story Hardrick shared is one of many that inspired him and Hartford Communities That Care Executive Director Andrew Woods to participate in the Beta Chapter’s ‘Prayer with Purpose’ community event. Hartford’s Sigma Lambda of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., as the two are in the trenches helping victims of communal violence.
Outside the Woodland entrance to Keney Park in Hartford, fraternity, sorority, community leaders and members gathered to pray for a safe summer for the city’s youth. As a black man and chairman of the Beta Sigma Lambda fraternity social action committee, Charon Smalls said he felt compelled to bring this event to the heart of Hartford.
“So over the last month we just (wanted to do something) that impacted on a spiritual level, (because) a lot of us are believers. We’re people of faith. We think that ‘it’s about not only having that intervention from God, but also motivating ourselves (to action),” Smalls said. is not just about speaking these words, but also about living them.”
The fellowship works throughout the year to ensure they live their faith out loud by having educational and youth programs designed to ensure local children get into college. Some of the activities included an annual fishing trip for Hartford County children, an online youth tutoring program during the COVID-19 pandemic, and other experiences around scholarships and education. This year, they helped four local high school students go to college.
Fellowship member Reverend Sylvester Turner Jr. was the one who helped bring Small’s vision for the prayer event to life. He noted the importance of hosting the prayer event.
“When Charon asked me to set up something for the community, regarding prayer for the summer, I thought it would be a task of sharing responsibilities,” he said. “After while it started, you know, God put on my heart how to do it. I just felt it was necessary for community leaders, faith communities, DN9 organizations, families and community members to come together. The Bible speaks of two or three being gathered together, God is there. So if he is there, we believe him (and) we pray.
Turner also noted the community’s responsibility to pray for children during the summer.
“It’s really…just making sure that we’ve done our part, as members of the community, to pray for our children. If no one prays for them, then who will? We have a duty and a responsibility to do that, and that’s what it’s really about,” he said. “Whether it’s five people here or (one) group of people, we just want to let our young people and our families know that, no matter how things look, we, the members of the community, are here to support them, pray and move them forward in their purpose and what God has called them to do.
A highlight of the event was Pastor AJ Johnson of Urban Hope Refuge Church in Hartford, who instructed the men in the crowd to pledge to mentor a young man aged 18 to 24 and the parents to love their children harder.
“There are young people right here at Martin Luther King School, who (have) never been anywhere but GA 14 (court) on Lafayette Street, who have never had the opportunity to extend their borders beyond those 18 square miles,” Johnson said.
“So I want to challenge all of you to engage this 18-24 age group. … I want to instruct parents to love harder. You’re probably saying… don’t tell me how to love my son or my daughter, or my child or my children. Don’t tell me how to do that, because I do a fantastic job, and indeed you are.
“You do an amazing job, but what you also need to understand is that when your kids leave you, they’re out of your space for six to eight hours a day being taught by other people. …I want us to love our kids, beyond those times when they come home and don’t look like we raised them to be…so they don’t have to find love (in) another place, but the home you made for them.