By Hamil R. Harris, Published: April 23
In addition to signing a three-year “covenant” in which they plan to work with more “community-based” organizations to slow the tide of gun violence, the pastors were briefed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) and officials from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence on the legislative status of the gun bill since it failed to pass in the Senate.
The Rev. Carroll A. Baltimore, senior president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, said the gun problem in the African American community is too critical to wait for a political solution at a time when, in cities such as Chicago, there have been more than 500 murders this year.
“Our call today begins with pastors, leaders and the unsung heroes who represent the leaders of African America as they lead our houses of worship,” said Baltimore, flanked by more than two dozen pastors, during a news conference at the 19th Street Baptist Church that was held to coincide with a press event held by pastors in Los Angeles at the same time.
The Rev. Barbara Williams Skinner, co-convener of the African American Church Gun Control Coalition, said in the same way black pastors led the Civil Rights campaigns in the 1960s, “we as clergy are stepping out and stepping up as advocates against the vicious circle of gun violence in our community.”
In addition to national religious leaders at the event, a number of local pastors were present, including the Rev. L.B. West, pastor of Mount Airy Baptist Church, which is on North Capitol Street NW near where 13 people were recently shot during a drive-by shooting.
“We don’t manufacture guns, we don’t have gun shops in our community, guns are brought to our community,” West said. “I was very appalled at what happened in the Senate, but we have to have a comprehensive approach now, to not just address young people — we have to deal with the parents, the uncles and the entire village from every aspect.”
Pastor Jermone Buie of Could Be Me Ministries City of Hope said that this summer, he plans to have a tent crusade to reach young people.
The Rev. Melvin Maxwell, senior pastor of East Friendship Baptist Church, said other pastors need to face the reality that they are disconnected from many of the young people with guns.
“Until the churches engage the brothers in the street, nothing will change,” Maxwell said. “Congress will never do it because the black community is a central part of the gun profits. Some of the gang members have guns to protect their community. We are going to have to touch the hearts of the young people.”