Leo Washington swayed along Southeast's Good Hope Road, right in step with the choir-robed marchers, and hummed an off-key accompaniment to their solemn hymm.
"Soon, very soon, we are going to see the King! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" Washington paused: "Actually, I was just going out to buy a Sunday paper when I saw them. But I think it's nice," he said, then darted his eyes left and right. "Am I going to be on TV?"
Washington was one of the few spontaneous participants in yesterday's Palm Spring procession of five Anacostia churches that mingled prayers for more housing, better schools, jobs and drug addicts with their observance of the day Christians celebrate Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem the week before His resurrection.
The march, said Rev. Jesse F. Anderson Jr., organizer of the event and vicar of The Chapel of St. Phillip, was a reminder that the suffering of Christ's people on earth continues.
Starting in the grassy plaza at the corner of 14th and U streets SE, the Roman Catholic Episcopalian and three Baptist congregations wound their way through the small stretch of Anacostia, past aging houses, disco bars and "Death to the Klan" signs scattered through the neighborhood.
To dramatize their point, Pastor Anderson asked Charles Smith, a member of his congregation, to pull on an embroidered caftan and bear a balsa wood cross ahead of the approximately 200 other celebrants, who filled the nearly empty Sunday morning streets with the colorful crimson, gold, and cream robes of their respective churches. Though the cross carrying usually is reserved for Good Friday, the day of Christ's crucifixion, no one seemed to mind the mixed symbolism.
They began with a short prayer by the Right Rev. John T. Walker, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, in memory of the slain children in Atlanta. Then they marched to the fire station at the corner of 14th and V streets, where the Rev. Roy Settles of the Ambassador Baptist Church led a prayer for public safety, "because certainly some of us feel not so safe." Low murmurs of "amen" and nods followed each sentence, a few even from the seven firefighters who looked on.
"Makes me feel good," said one fireman.
"We need more of these," added another.
Next the group stopped to pray at an abandoned house, which served as the backdrop for a plea for more decent housing and jobs by the Rev. E. Nathaniel Porter, a Howard University chaplain. They continued on to a drug abuse treatment center at the corner of Good Hope Road and Minnesota Avenue SE, where the Rev. Willie Walker of Union Temple Baptist Church led the prayer.
A few onlookers shouted "amen" and "I'm with you" at the procession, which was later joined by City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon and Council Member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6). At the Ketcham Elementary School, the Rev. George Stallings said a rousing prayer for better education. "We don't want our children bused all over this land to get a quality education! And we will go down and lobby. And we will go down and demonstrate, until we claim what is rightfully ours!"