New Hope Baptist Church Pastor John Raphael is spending this week at the intersection of South Claiborne Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Central City. He's fasting — drinking only water, Gatorade and coffee — and praying for an end to the violence in New Orleans. He began Monday morning, and plans to end tomorrow night — but if he feels he needs to keep going, he will.
"We've been praying every hour, some days every half hour. ... People come out, through rain, cold, missing the Saints game," Raphael says with a laugh. "There's some things that are so important right now, and we in the church can't sit in our ivory tour. The one thing the church can do is pray, and the church can love ... folks who don't deserve to be loved. That's needed."
Several cars honk their horns as they drive way. Some stop, or roll down their windows at the stop light, to say, "This is a good thing you're doing," "We love you" or "I wish they would listen."
Joining Raphael and members of his congregation are Q93.3-FM DJs Wild Wayne, Slab and Ro Watts, who also came yesterday and plan again tomorrow.
"Pastor called Monday afternoon, said why he was out here, the reason he was out here, and we immediately jumped behind him," DJ Slab says. The station and its DJs spread the word via Twitter, Facebook and the airwaves, letting audiences know that Raphael would be out there and company is welcome. More than 150 people stopped by the intersection yesterday.
"If we can be the beacon, and get the information out there that the Pastor is out here, and reiterate to stop the violence, using the medium for what it's worth, we figured it could be impactful," Wayne says. "Going into this New Year, (we hope) to see this new New Orleans people keep talking about and see a decrease in violence at the same time." Wayne says spread an anti-violence message has "got to get done, and it's got to be repetitive."
Surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial are signs with photographs of 2-year-old Jeremy Galmon, who died when caught in a crossfire in September. Other signs remind drivers and passers-by of the more than 180 murders that have rocked the city in 2010, and others simply read "Truce".
"I just threw that word out there," Raphael says. "At some point there's going to have to be a truce, where 'I'm not going to get the revenge I want myself, but I do have the option of saying, I saw this person take that person's life.' It's something the community has to enforce it."