By Darlene L. Williams, Contributing Writer
In the wake of the much televised deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arberry some 250 men, women, children, police officers, clergy, and community leaders filled the sanctuary of St. Peter’s Restoration Community Christian Ministries for a “Unite the Community” rally. The event was rescheduled to Thursday, June 11, 2020 to accommodate more community members wanting to attend the meeting, themed, “If You See Something Say Something.”
Pastor BK Jones opened up the event with a stirring prayer. He commented afterwards, “We were horrified by 8 minutes and 46 seconds.”(Referring to the amount of time former Minneapolis police officer Derrick Stauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd until his death).
“There’s almost a mindset, Jones said, that we of the black community have to ask to be human.”
The outcry against police brutality and killings of unarmed African American men and women, and systemic racial and social injustices, have not been the issues solely affecting other cities and counties in the U.S., but such issues are plaguing Kern County as well.
The crowd stood and applauded after, KCSOS HR Director, Traco Matthews stated, “Tonight, we are here to declare NO MORE, not on our watch!”
Seventeen speakers were slotted to speak at the event including: NAACP President, Patrick Jackson, Mayor Karen Goh, Assemblyman Rudy Salas, Bakersfield Police Chief, Greg Terry, KC Superintendent of Schools, Mary Barlow, Black Lives Matter spokesperson, Reginald Gardner, and others.
“We’ve heard accounts of racial discrimination and accounts of deep wounds,” Mayor Karen Goh said. “As a community we have to look deep inside; let our actions match our words.”
Andre Gonzalez thanked the organizers of the protests and those responsible for starting the hard conversations about racism.
“It’s important that we have these difficult conversations and that we listen,” Gonzalez said. “There are many reforms already in process. “By the end of this month, every police officer will be equipped with body cameras.” (A standing ovation)
Former Supervisor, Gene Tackett, “It’s good to be a Bakersfield Unity Rally.” I’m here to support the police department.
Tackett made reference to the 75 year- old man protesting in Buffalo, NY being pushed down by a police officer and other officers walked by.
“I’m not here to defund the police,” Tackett said, “but I’m here to reform the police. “
Senator Shannon Grove, could not attend the rally, but sent a recorded message quoting several Biblical scriptures to comfort those in attendance. ” This is not a Republican or Democrat issue” Grove said, but it’s an issue of humanity.”
NAACP President, Patrick Jackson, passionately spoke about several cases involving wrongful deaths of African Americans in Kern County. “Enough is enough!” Jackson said.
“Tonight we lament, tomorrow we work on legislation,” he said. “Faith without works is dead.” (Receiving a standing ovation)
The 3-hour event also included moving gospel songs, led by Pastor Mike Jenkins and the song “I Need You To Survive” which seemed to be message that connected to the hearts of those in attendance.
“This is not a moment in time, but there is a lot of pain right here in this town. “A healthy community recognizes that diversity is not a threat, but a blessing.” Rabbi Klein (Temple Beth-El)
It is unknown if “Unite the Community” is scheduled for future events. Director of Public Affairs at Centric Health Care and moderator of the event, Michael Bowers could not be reached for further comments regarding future plans.