Unification News for June 1998

City of Carson Includes Bridge Ceremony in 5th Annual Youth Conference

by Paula Fujiwara-Whittier CA

After experiencing the "spirit of the bridge" last October for Carsonís first Interracial Bridge of Peace Ceremony, city officials decided to include the bridge ceremony in their 1998 Youth Conference, held Saturday, April 11 at the Community Center. So they asked the Interracial Sisterhood Project of Southern California to bring back their bridge for the occasion.

The Youth Conference, sponsored by the City of Carson Recreation and Community Services Department, included a full day of activities. Workshops were conducted first on the issues of teen pregnancy, peer pressure, teen suicide, erasing the color line, and domestic violence. A session was held after lunch on "Parents and Teens Mass Communication." The Bridge of Peace Ceremony was held before dinner and the day continued all the way to midnight with career workshops, a talent showcase and a dance.

Donzaleigh Abernathy, daughter of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who worked with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the Keynote Speaker for the conference. She has an acting career in films and TV, and is about to publish a book documenting the civil rights movement, entitled Partners in History. Donzaleigh spoke at the opening of the conference and during the Bridge Ceremony: "I want you to know that the most important thing in life is love, (especially) Ďagapeí love: understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill love for all mankind. It is the love of God permeating through your human heart. Thatís the only kind of love thatís going to make a difference in the world...thatís going to solve the problems which face each one of you. Always know that God has something for you to do. You were given a life force and you are being asked to be the best you can be."

The atmosphere for the Bridge Ceremony was heightened with solos sung by nine-year-old gospel phenomenon Jentry Jenkins and duets by Liz Prowell and Karen Lee. ISP chairwoman Sheri Rueter, who was emcee for the ceremony, explained the significance of the bridge crossing as an opportunity for repentance, reconciliation and healing of the wounds of past wrongdoings. The ceremony was unique because of the variety of "partners for peace" who met on the bridge: interracial pairs and male-female pairs as well as parents and their children.

During dinner, ceremony participants shared about their experience. Carol Davis, the president of the Carson Womenís Club, crossed the bridge with her 16-year-old son: "At that moment it was like my son and I bonded. It was a really bringing-together atmosphere and I wish that a lot more parents were here with their kids." Her son Michael added: "I felt that the program here today meant a lot of good for the young people like me. I felt pretty good (crossing the bridge) because I really love my mom; I think that we should have a good relationship between me and her." Parent Josephine Marco exclaimed: "I thought it was the greatest experience I ever had and to have the biggest surprise that my son would cross the bridge with me.... (T)his is a beautiful program. I hope it grows and grows." Gregory Warren crossed the bridge with his wife, two daughters and a young man from his church. "I will plan to come back because this is very fulfilling and very rewarding. I think that everyone here has enjoyed the day and itís an experience for everyone to live this and I thank you for coming up with the idea." Ashley, who is going on thirteen, had this to say: "I thought the bridge was nice because you got to meet new people and you got to hug...and it was like increasing the peace because there were a lot of different people and you got to join and let everybody know that itís togetherness and this is what itís all about." Del Huff of the Carson Human Relations Commission remarked, "I have participated three times in the sisterhood program (bridge crossing) and each time thinking that it canít get any better than this it has been taken to a higher height. I look at this as a ministry to Godís people. Itís an experience as to how He intended us to live and the oneness that He created for us. The bridge crossing was a magnificent addition to the youth conference this year. I recommend this for anyone and everyone."

The bridge of peace ceremony is a tradition taking root in the City of Carson. The city is planning a second annual interracial bridge ceremony for October and will continue including the ceremony in the annual youth conference. The ISP is ready to work with any group wanting to include a bridge ceremony in their event. 

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