LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – Bryant Temple A.M.E. Church’s marquis shined like a beacon light in the wilderness on Mar. 13–both for the women seeking prayer, nurturing and protection from violence and degradation, and, for the determined army of Black men willing to provide such shelter during the fourth annual “Be Good to Women Day” prayer vigil.
Established as a nationwide movement and National Day of Prayer for women, “Be Good to Women” spread through the airwaves via the popular radio show On the Phone with Ti-Rone, a nationally-syndicated program hosted by Brad Sanders, who coordinated the day with his wife, Rev. Joan Sanders, co-host Deya Smith Starks and others.
Those who took part in the event had access to HIV testing with Magic’s Prevention Outreach Wellness Education and Referral Unit, which embodied a healing component, or haven, for men to be able to uninhibitedly share their feelings on domestic abuse, their own loved ones, and to pray for change. Ultimately, organizers informed, the aim is to eradicate the abandonment, exploitation, abuse and violence increasingly suffered by women.
According to the World Health Organization, women are at greatest risk of violence from men they know; women and girls are the most frequent victims of violence within the family and between intimate partners; physical abuse in intimate relationships is almost always accompanied by severe psychological and verbal abuse; and social institutions put in place to protect citizens too often blame or ignore battered women.
Darlene Watley is a survivor of childhood abuse, who cried as she witnessed the prayers of men, while reflecting on losing a trusting relationship with her father. At age 9, her father was murdered at the young age of 33.
“I was so angry because I never got to know my father. If he wasn’t drunk or beating on my mom, or in jail, he didn’t want to be bothered with us. So, I always grew up with this trust issue with men … I can forgive my father, which is huge, because I can say that I love my father. He had problems too. He had struggles that I couldn’t understand,” she said, and added, “Today I can love him and just respect that he was my father and that he did the best that he could do with what he had.”
Mr. Sanders stated that one of the reasons for relationship difficulties between Black men and women is that the Black man in America is always a suspect. It is so pervasive, he said, that in his subconscious mind, even the simplest occurence of bringing a magazine into an office with him, he had already prepared an alibi to explain that it was his and bore his name in case anyone accused him of trying to steal it.
“You deal with years and years and years of that and you walk into a relationship or you walk home from work or dealing your daily do out there on the streets, your job or wherever you have to go outside of your home, and now you’re angry. Who gets the brunt of the anger? The one that’s waiting to give you all the love you need. So we need to put things in the right order,” he said.
That equals building the right relationship with God and taking everything to Him in prayer, Mr. Sanders continued. “You can’t protect your family by yourself … we are really dealing with an embodiment of unlimited power called ‘woman’ that we really need to be connected with in order to be all that we can be,” he said.
After song and scripture readings, 12 youthful and seasoned men lined the front of the sanctuary and expressed the characteristics of a man. “…He constantly seeks God’s council … Respects Women–No profanity; opens doors; listens to and respects their opinion and ideas; encourages them to reach their full God-given potential,” read one of the prayerful men.
They stood firm in their atonement to women, asserting that the handful present represented for them so many more whose faces others could not see. From the outset, this writer clearly read that the lives in that church, including hers, would be forever changed. Some of the women were awe-struck and others moved to tears.
Mr. Sanders highlighted the necessity for healthy, positive relationships between fathers and daughters, like Venus and Serena Williams and their father, Richard. “It makes a big difference when daddy’s home. Venus and Serena could not be superstar tennis players without daddy. Daddy went over to the park and negotiated with the gang bangers for them to be able to practice day in and day out. We have to pay great attention to that, because without daddy in the home, the little girl becomes just another statistic,” he insisted.
The men and women formed four prayer circles and withdrew to each corner of the room, where they offered lengthy prayers for wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, and abused, violated and homeless women. They prayed for God’s healing power to enter into male abusers of women and children, and for worldwide change in their treatment.
Usually, Mr. Sanders stated, the vigil ends with testimonies and reactions, but first, he called all of the women into one seating area, where the men formed a symbolic hedge of protection around them. Arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, Brother-to-Brother, they chanted: “Sisters, I speak love into your spirit; life into your bodies; peace into your mind. We love you. We love you. We love you!”
Ms. Starks said that often, women struggle in survival mode, and present a hard exterior, but their innermost desire is to be covered and protected. “We really do want to be protected. We want the luxury of being soft again. But unfortunately, because our world is so twisted, being soft and vulnerable and gentle and nourished is more of a luxury. It’s less of the norm,” she said.
Anthony Burdett said that he felt God’s presence throughout the vigil. “Women need to be loved and protected just like God has put women here for us. I felt so uplifted to see the women here, and hear that we don’t have to feel the hardcore, let go, and know that you’re being loved while surrounded by real men of God,” he said.
“The unique experience of this night was to take that strength that we normally use to support one another as men and direct it in a place that’s sorely lacking and so many times neglected, that our women need to feel that support as well,” stated Brian Price, a member of Bryant Temple A.M.E.