A day before the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, four Los Angeles-area pastors united to lead a rally for peace and justice, not matter what the outcome. Their timely actions not only reinforced their ties to the pulse of the public, but some people commented that the rally helped community members to prepare to remain calm.
Fortunately, Chauvin was found guilty on April 20, of three counts of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was murdered on May 25, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd died as a result of Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
Pastor Shep Crawford of The Experience Christian Ministries, Pastor Michael J.T. Fisher of the Greater Zion Church Family, Pastor Najuma Smith-Pollard of Word of Encouragement Community Church and Pastor Charles Johnson of Cochran Avenue Baptist Church organized the event on April 19, to emphasize a tranquil reaction to the trial’s result while remaining strong in the fight for justice and equality. The pastors were also ready to comment on the April 20 verdict.
“Guilty or innocent, our community is hurting,” said Fisher, who heads the oldest African American congregation in Compton. “We are mourning and it is our assignment to walk through this together – clergy and culture.” Fisher has received national acclaim for his efforts to support local businesses, employ formerly incarcerated youth, and provide a variety of afterschool classes. As a young pastor, he is often called upon to serve as a liaison between troubled teens and law enforcement agencies.
Underscoring the importance of unity, Crawford declared, “The future of L.A. project is not a one man operation. We need every pastor, community leader, councilperson and business owner to get on board. We’ve lost too much. We can’t take any more losses. We need everybody out to move the plan forward. Crawford is widely known for his joint campaigns with OG Crips and Bloods and the L.A. Police Department to promote peace in distressed neighborhoods. Also, his ministry sponsors food distributions, outreach to the homeless and community cleanups in South L.A.
Echoing the call for harmony among all people, Smith-Pollard insisted, “We are changing the narrative here, pushing for progress, progression, productivity and positivity. We need everybody – young people, women, leaders, imams, rabbis, people of all walks to join us.” A veteran social activist as well as a pastor, Smith-Pollard is a published author, radio show host, and personal development coach. She also serves as the program director of the Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement at USC. In 2019, she lost her son to senseless gun violence and has since become an even stronger advocate for peace.
Johnson, who is also the founder of the Miracle Mile 4 Justice, explained, “We are literally fighting for the soul of Los Angeles. The city has had such a negative track record as it relates to race relations – from the Watts riots to Rodney King to now, George Floyd, which has become a worldwide focus. “We are here saying things have to change! We are not going to stop, we are not going to quit. We are fighting for the future of L.A.,” noted Johnson, who established MM4J to honor people who have lost their lives due to systemic racism toward Black and Brown people in the United States.
According to the organization’s mission statement, “It is time for protests and politics to intersect. We would like to see police chiefs, district attorneys, judges, city council members, mayors, governors, and state legislature to take their seats at the table and prepare an executable action plan to combat racism and implement humane and equitable practices for all people.”