Breaking through the chains and barriers that divide within the community is on the minds and at the heart of a motivating factor to unite Atchison residents.

Hundreds of persons organized themselves Friday, June 19 at the historic Lincoln School yard and then marched onward to line multiple blocks along Division Street as part of a human prayer chain. Families, individuals, colleagues and friends representative of multiple faiths social distanced apart in silent prayer to unite to end social injustice.

The Atchison Juneteenth Committee members and Atchison United leaders hosted a Prayer on Division event to focus on a potential name change for Division Street and as an alternate gathering due to the cancellation of plans for the annual Juneteenth weekend tradition in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An early morning Facebook posting about the Prayer on Division event reached out to the local faith community to get involved in what organizer Sean Crittendon indicated was a rather impromptu event that evening.

“Many feel we are a city divided by a street running from east to west, a street that has come to represent its name of Division, a street that has grown into a barrier that has divided us,” the posting indicated. “It’s time to make our voices heard in heaven. It’s time for the faith community in Atchison to take a stand. It’s time for all of us to become united.”

The post encouraged event-goers to gather beforehand at Lincoln School, sign a petition and write a prayerful one-word message onto a piece of white tape to attach to their respective face masks, hats or clothing.

Before the march, Atchison City Commissioner Abby Bartlett read aloud the recent Atchison City Commission-adopted proclamation proclaiming the month of June as Juneteenth Celebration Month in Atchison. The proclamation emphasizes the history and significance of the “19th of June” – Juneteenth Independence Day as the day freedom was proclaimed to all slaves in the south by Union General Granger in 1865 in Galveston, Texas more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery. The proclamation, Bartlett read entails graphic descriptions concerning adversities and atrocities slaves endured throughout forced enslavement of African Americans.

Don Bratton, of the Juneteenth Committee and The Rev. Jon Hullinger, Pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church, on behalf of the Atchison Ministerial Alliance, offered opening remarks.

LaTisha Downing, sang a rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” a cappella that concluded the event.

In observance of Juneteenth, the City of Atchison illuminated the the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge in the Juneteenth colors.

To view videos, photos and to obtain more information about the event and Atchison United go to Facebook #AtchisonUnited.

Mary Meyers can be reached via Follow her on Twitter:@MARYMEYERSglobe

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