The streets of Irvine were jam-packed as more than 2,000 people came out to the Unity March and Rally sponsored by Christ Our Redeemer AME Church (COR) on June 13.
The event, which focused on eliminating injustice and encouraging voter registration, featured a multicultural and ecumenical crowd of all ages led by COR Pastor Ralph E. Williamson. Also, Pastor Jason Aguila of Arise Church in Irvine, Pastors Chad Halliburton and Brian Hill of Rock Harbor Church in Mission Viejo, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes and Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel were among the participants.
“The purpose was not to march just to be marching. This was a mobilization to bring people together for a common cause in the interest of injustice and change,” explained Williamson, who arranged the event following the killing of George Floyd by a White police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “The way change comes about is that you have to educate, mobilize and get people registered to vote.”
Along with voting registration, said Williamson, is the need for people to converse with one another, understand the issues facing the community and develop strategies to change policies and laws. The approach is one that he successfully implemented during his 16-year tenure as pastor of First AME Church in Las Vegas before being assigned to COR.
In that capacity, Williamson led the Faith Organizing Alliance, an organization that aimed to improve the lives of the minorities through voting education and engaging people to work together to change policies that had a negative impact on the community. Once he was appointed to COR, he applied that knowledge to address similar concerns in that city.
“It was a natural transition for me and about what I do for a living. I’m a pastor and I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the Gospel of liberation. Jesus came to liberate those who are oppressed, in prison, and empower through the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
As for the next steps, Williamson will work with other Black pastors, along with law enforcement and community leaders, to discuss ways to initiate positive adjustments in race relations and policing.
“We will look at what is missing and what are the issues and policies. We will see how we can implement those changes and hold people accountable to the law and policing to ensure that justice is served,” he explained.
“This is the role of the church – not just to be behind closed walls, but to be out in the community to meet the needs of the people!”