Rally had positive messages

Published 7:28 pm Friday, August 12, 2011

YOUTH DEPENDING ON CHRIST, a youth group from the House of Victory church in the Vada community, performs an interpretative dance to “Waiting on Your Rain” by Todd Agnew.

It was a hot but joyous afternoon for the people who came out to Willis Park for the third annual rally honoring the memory of Ebony Clarke, a victim of gang violence who was fatally shot in 2008.

Clarke’s family, friends and others were there to celebrate what Ebony’s mother, Barbara Williford, said was her daughter’s legacy — bringing awareness to youth and parents about “saying no to drugs and gang activity.”

Ebony was shot to death outside her Broughton Street home on Aug. 11, 2008 — an innocent bystander during an ongoing dispute among several men. She was 21 years old and left behind an infant son, Ty’yon Clarke, whom Williford has been raising.

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Williford, who has since adopted two girls — one of whom is her niece — brought Ty’yon and his sisters, Shawanda Gardner and Jeminia Herring, together at the gazebo in Willis Park. Williford said that her three adopted children are evidence that God can bring healing and joy after a painful loss.

Williford said she created the march and rally not only to honor her late daughter but to unite citizens to “take back their community” from people who cause damage to it.

Around that theme, performers from several area churches gave witness to the strength of faith in solving problems.

“Youth Depending on Christ,” comprised of several youth from the House of Victory church in Vada, performed an interpretative dance to the contemporary gospel song “Waiting For Your Rain” by Todd Agnew.

Lillie Clark performed a gospel solo with the lyrics, “I can’t see the Lord, but I can feel him all over us.”

Ja’mae Peterson and CaKimmee Smiley, from the New Abundant Life Church of Christ, performed an interpretative dance to “Please Order My Steps in Your Word.”

Chris Johnson performed a solo to a song which had the lyrics, “I’ve seen good days and I’ve seen bad days, but my good days outweigh the bad.”

Tony Austin, a faith-based rapper, performed some of the songs off a CD he is self-distributing. Austin, who said he hopes to make the CD available on the Internet soon, is selling his Christian rap CDs for $5. To order one or get more information, people can call him at (229) 886-6751.

Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin participated in the rally and a brief march around Willis Park.

The Rev. Willie Smiley, pastor of New Abundant Life Church of Christ, said a prayer, while Patricia McNair read a Bible scripture.