By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Xavier Mudd stood on the sidewalk at 29th and Broadway May 13 — a big smile on his young face, his blond hair shining in the afternoon sun — helping to hold a sign that read “Holy Family Church is Against Gun Violence.”
Mudd and members of his family, parishioners of Holy Family Church, took part in the second “Hands Across Louisville” — an event that aims to promote unity and advocate for an end to gun violence in West Louisville. Participants held hands, stood with signs and prayed along a stretch of Broadway spanning more than 20 city blocks.
The event, organized by the non-profit group Hand Across Louisville, brought together people from as far west as Christ the King Church, on 44th street, to as far east as Epiphany Church in Anchorage, Ky., just as organizers said they’d hoped.
Hands Across Louisville began close to two years ago when founder Lolita Ewing, a member of St. Martin de Porres Church, said she grew tired of the gun violence in the city, especially the West End.
Ewing said the constant gun violence in the West End has cast a shadow on that community and its people. Many, she noted, have given up on themselves and the community. Her desire, she said, is to restore hope to the community through the work of Hands Across Louisville.
She wants residents of the West End to know, “You’re more than a criminal statistic.”
Ewing is calling on people to take a stand against violence, which she said, has consequences across the city.
Beth Nett, a member of Holy Family Church and the aunt of little Xavier Mudd, said she agrees. As she and her nephew stood holding their sign, she talked about what had brought them out that day.
Xavier, who received his First Holy Communion earlier that day, opted to take part in the West Louisville event instead of having a party.
Gun violence, said Nett, “affects the whole city. We live in a different area, but we wanted to come support the people who live here. We’re all part of Louisville.”
Nett said that the fear some people have of going into the West End is not helpful and only “makes things worse.”
Deacon Wright, pastoral administrator of Holy Family, agrees that fear of the West End is not helpful. He calls that community his “old stomping grounds,” having grown up in West Louisville.
Deacon Wright said that too often the West End is ignored and thought of as “that place where there’s lots of violence.”
But violence “affects us all,” he said. He and members of his parish wanted “to make a public witness that we stand with those who are hurting or affected by violence,” he said.
Members of nine Catholic churches, the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, along with students from Presentation
Academy were among those holding hands and signs on Broadway.
The day’s main event was the hand holding between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., but events started at 10 a.m. and featured more than a dozen speakers, many of whom
had been affected by gun violence. Entertainers, including African drummers, line dancers and the “Mexico Lindo” dance group from Epiphany Church, performed at different points throughout the day.
The event ended at 5 p.m. with an ecumenical prayer service at St. Martin de Porres Church, but Hands Across Louisville’s work continues, Ewing said. She and members of the group are setting up programs to offer basic computer and job readiness skills and employment referals. They hope to have these programs going by late summer.
For more information about Hands Across Louisville and how to help, visit www.handsacrosslouisville.com.