Bogalusa churches react to recent violence

Published 1:44 pm Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Approximately 100 citizens took to the streets Saturday to march in an attempt to save Bogalusa’s soul — its young people.

Bogalusa has seen a spike of violent crime over the past few weeks. At least four murders have occurred in the last month.

The march took place a week after a prayer service at Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church focusing on the same problem. Ebenezer Pastor the Rev. Raymond Mims had the doors opened to the church for the prayer, conducted by associate ministers, the Rev. Charlie Parker and the Rev. Darrel Self.

Saturday’s march began at the corner of 1600 North Ave. and 800 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and ended at Bethlehem Baptist Church on Florence Avenue. At the church, local candidates in the Nov. 4 election were introduced and had the opportunity to offer a few words.

Bethlehem Baptist Church Pastor Elder Christopher Matthews led the group in prayer before the march. March organizer and Bethlehem associate minister Marvin Austin Jr. spoke about what he hoped the march could accomplish.

“With this march, we hope to accomplish peace and a feeling of community throughout this community,” Austin said. “We want to give the city back some hope and change this city for the better. We do that by placing God back in our city.”

Austin said he knew beforehand who would come and march.

“I anticipated the people who wanted to change the city would show up,” Austin said. “It doesn’t take a lot to change a city.”

Austin said parents must teach their children to return to church and stay out of the streets.

“I’m not running for office,” Austin said. “I’m just concerned for my city. This is not for finger pointing. We need to come up with solutions to help our kids. We’re here to take a stand. Our kids have to be taught to love God. It’s time to start going back to church and let God lead your life. It’s time for parents to be parents. You can’t be friends with your children. You’ve got to be parents. We’re fixing to show the world, this state, this city, that we care for this city.”

At the church, Austin said a lack of godliness is the cause for the city’s woes.

“The reason for all this going on is that God is missing from our city,” Austin said. “Until we put Him back in the forefront, the same things will keep going on in our community and schools. My belief is that no one man or no one woman can fix this. Only God can fix this.”

Local politicians who participated in the march or attended the activity at the church included Mayor Charles Mizell, City Council members Wendy Perrette, Penny Williams, Teddy Drummond and Doug Ritchie, City Marshal John Sumrall, Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal and Judge Robert Black. Candidates in the upcoming election who participated in the march or were at the church were mayoral candidate Tina Ratliff-Boley and City Council candidates Keith Merrill, Gloria Kates, Shawn Chatmon Ratliff, Emma Dixon, Tamira Moss-Smith, Justin Arnold, Brian McCree and George Williams.