By Renée K. Gadoua
Roko Sherry Chayat led more than 200 people in a verse of purification Sunday at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor.
“All the evil karma ever committed by me since of old, on account of my beginning less greed, anger and folly, borne of my body, mouth and thoughts, I now confess and purify it all,” Chayat, spiritual leader of the Zen Center of Syracuse, said as the crowd repeated sections of the verse.
The words came during a water blessing during “Water, Precious Water,” a concert by the Syracuse Community Choir. Singing, chanting, dancing and drumming followed an afternoon of programs intended to educate people about water and celebrate the sacredness of the natural resource.
The event was organized by the choir, members of the Onondaga Nation and groups including the Partnership for Onondaga Creek and Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation.
Large, water-drop-shaped signs were taped to the barriers of a walkway across part of the Inner Harbor. The signs display quotations and facts about water.
“Americans paid $7.7 billion for bottled water in 2002,” read one sign. “The United States consumes water at twice the rate of other industrialized nations,” read another.
About an hour before the concert, 6-year-old Jason Longmore watched a demonstration that showed the effects of changes to the natural migration of a stream.
“Ultimately you’re altering the biodiversity of the area because you’re changing the natural habitat,” Ginny Collins, a graduate student at the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry, explained to about five people.
Using what she called “a glorified sandbox,” Collins demonstrated on piles of crushed plastic with puddles of water representing streams.
Jason, who lives in Manlius and is in the first grade at Mott Road Elementary School, watched carefully as Collins moved piles of plastic bits, resulting in a faster water flow.
“Cool,” Jason said.
He said the displays taught him about water and pollution.
“We have to look out for the lake,” he said, as his mother, Julie Longmore, nodded.
The concert was planned to honor the water and people who advocate for clean, accessible water, choir founder and Director Karen Mihalyi wrote in the concert program.
“Humankind holds up water as sacred and yet our relationship with water is in terrible trouble,” she wrote.
Tadadaho Sid Hill, the spiritual leader of the Onondaga Nation, opened the concert program with an Iroquois thanksgiving address. He thanked the creator for the earth, the rain and creatures. In honor of the event’s theme, he gave special thanks to the creator for water. ”
You can’t emphasize enough what it means to people,” he said.