YONKERS, NY — In the Book of Revelation, there were seven crowns, seven seals, and seven trumpets. In the book of Genesis, there was the seventh day, when God rested after creating the heavens and the Earth.
In southwest Yonkers, the number seven has also been significant in recent weeks. In response to a rise in shootings and stabbings, the first of seven prayer vigils was held Saturday, April 30, at Cottage Place Gardens, a public housing complex.
The vigils continued on Locust Hill Avenue on May 7, on Hamilton Avenue on May 14, on Riverdale Avenue on May 21, and off School Street on May 28.
During each event, participants meet at specific spot, then walk the surrounding neighborhood, praying and pouring olive oil on the sidewalk and street.
The oil, like the number seven, has Biblical significance. To Pastor James Hassell of the Kingdom Christian Cultural Center, who organized the vigils, the oil represents the Holy Spirit as well as the “residue of our prayers.”
“I believe prayer changes things,” he said.
Prior to the first vigil, a 25-year-old man was shot on North Broadway on April 24, shots were fired at Cottage Place Gardens on April 25 (no one was hurt), and a 38-year-old man was shot on Waverly Street on April 30, according to Det. Lt. Patrick McCormack of the Yonkers Police Department. Both victims survived.
During the first vigil, participants discussed the shooting on Waverly Street, which happened less than eight hours earlier.
“We have to pray against the spirit of retaliation,” said Tania Bell-Yates, the office manager for the Yonkers YMCA’s Project SNUG, a program that aims to prevent gun violence.
“The spirit of retaliation is so deep here — in families, not just on the street,” added Alonda Hassell, the wife of James Hassell and the pastor in charge of training and development at the Kingdom Christian Cultural Center.
"The whole retaliation thing is a refusal to forgive,” her husband concluded. “If we seek forgiveness, then we have to learn to forgive.”
Tim Lamorte is an award-winning journalist who has spent almost two decades documenting life along the Hudson River.