BY LOUIS C. WARD
LEESBURG - It was a very large crowd, probably 600 deep and united. Police officers, firemen, city officials, pastors, community leaders, Blacks, whites, Hispanics, men, women, children and dogs, walking together. Talking together. Loving each other. Needing each other.
Participants didn’t carry signs, revealing what they stood for, or why they were there. It wasn’t necessary. The fellowship with the smiles, the gestures, and the body language explained it all. Loving each other. Needing each other.
From the time it took to walk from Pine Street to City Hall in Leesburg, Florida, which was less than 10 minutes, on August 29th, a hot, muggy Wednesday evening, a large, diverse group of people from Leesburg and other cities in Lake County showed the country that it stood against hate, racism, bigotry, and white supremacy in a Love Walk full of people from all races, genders, and faiths, all the things that may separate us, but also may unite us through commonalities we share as human beings: a love for others.
“Are you ready to walk?” asked Pastor John Christian, a long time city servant and coordinator for the event, which was undoubtedly planned for the Ku Klux Klaners, white supremists, racists, bigots, and others wishing to incite a race war in America.
“Yes,” was the crowd’s loud response with its loud and clear message to Lake County’s few racists and Ku Klux Klanners, and white supremists: you better go someplace else! Leesburg in Lake County, Florida, will not be a part of any movement that created the horrible, tragic incident that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, two weeks ago.
That Wednesday evening in downtown Leesburg, the people were about showing unity and love for each other. Minister Fred Miller and other supporters of the event were there early, waiting for the Love Walk to start. He said he was here “to bring it together; it’s all about unity.” For Minister Miller, “making a presence is the biggest ministry…do some good while we can.”
“We’re here to support the people who provided this Walk of Love, and we need more of it,” said Jean, who came with her husband. “There’s so much misunderstanding. We need more and better communication.”
Mayor Bob Bone, who’s proud of Leesburg and encourages everyone to continue to spread the love, addressing the crowd, said this is Leesburg; the crowd shows everything that I believe about our city. At its core, it’s a city that loves and cares for its people.
“It’s important to come together and be vigilant, and understand the enemy already seeks to divide us through anger, hate, pride, and self-righteousness,” continued Mayor Bone. “We have a great teacher who taught us to love, Jesus Christ.”
Leesburg Police Department Chief Robert Hicks said, “At a time of turmoil and division in this country, it was wonderful to be part of an event in my hometown community where a diverse group of people got together to celebrate love and unity, and support one another. I was honored to be part of the event and I certainly hope we have others to follow.”
Pastor Terry Mehran of The Fathers House prayed, and encouraged people to “take a stand, that’s not who we are. “We declare that you (God) turn it around for good, whatever the enemy came to destroy.”
“With love in our hearts, we have the ability to make everything better. We can rise up to see that all lives matter, emphasized Pastor Christian. “With love in our hearts, we come together as brothers and sisters, regardless of one’s race, religion or gender. With love in our hearts, we can overcome all hate. There will be less crime and evilness will have to dwell in another place!”
Before telling everyone to hug someone they don’t know, Pastor Christian charged Leesburg “to give and show more love to the nation! Spread it to every person you come in contact with, because love is very contagious!”
The heartfelt event concluded with an impromptu community choir, which brought it all home with its rendition of the gospel hit, “I Need You to Survive”.