Long Island Latinos dedicated Saturday morning to embracing unity as they danced to upbeat merengue tunes and marched in solidarity down Huntington Station’s New York Avenue, marking the eighth annual Christian Day Parade, and for a few hours fear was able to dissipate.
“It’s one of the ways we can tell the community that the church is here to lend a hand out to them and any needs they have,” said Willie Perez, a coordinator of the event, organized by the Light of Salvation Church and “Iglesia Casa de Oración,” or House of Prayer Church, in Huntington Station; and the Second Light of Salvation Church in East Northport. “We are spreading hope, peace and love. That’s the main thing that the church is out to give.”
The Evangelical Hispanic churches of Huntington stressed the meaning of these values by lining the parade’s three floats only with shades of yellow, white and blue, depicting the three pillars of the parade.
But an underlying theme this year was also recognition of ICE crackdowns and the feelings surrounding unprecedented raids on the Latino community.
“This year, with the climate of fear, the community doesn’t really come out in public as much because they are afraid,” said Pilar Moya, founder of Latinos United of Long Island and another organizer of the event. “This is the one opportunity that they do come out, because they trust their church leaders.”
Organizers this year also invited all elected officials and congressional candidates in the area, from both sides of the aisle, Moya said.
A dozen attended, including Assemblymen Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) and Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Town of Huntington representatives.
Melanie D’Arrigo, a progressive activist and candidate for New York’s 3rd Congressional District, held an “Immigrant Justice Now” banner, representing a pro-immigrant rights group in which she is involved, as she marched for the first time in the parade.
“The more we come out and speak up, the more people will come in and stand up and speak out, and that’s the idea of it,” she said. “We have to keep doing this to show our government that we have a bigger voice, and they need to listen to it.”
D’Arrigo’s attendance was also influenced by her recent visit to the border, where she volunteered to help migrants in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez.
The parade’s vision is to show community members that there is more to the church than what is within its four walls, said Marilyn Morales, secretary of the Life of Salvation Church.
“We’re there for the community,” she said. “To bring hope to the community, to share love of God with the community, and just to show the community that the church is there for them regardless of religion, race, color.”