About 50 people, including more than a dozen influential African American clergy members, two councilmen and Police Chief Chris Magnus gathered for breakfast Saturday at Greater El Bethel Baptist Church in Parchester Village. Like they do on a Saturday every month, the religious and civic leaders discussed issues facing Richmond, including health, politics and public safety.
Key on this Saturday was discussion of Richmond Ceasefire/Lifelines to Healing, a community-driven collaboration with law enforcement to reduce gun violence through a multifaceted approach, including reducing recidivism among parolees and offering a mix of incentives and outreach efforts to dissuade neighborhood combatants from retaliatory violence. Three men have been killed in gun violence in Richmond and unincorporated North Richmond over the last month.
Rev. Alvin Bernstine of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church said that he and other Ceasefire Partners had begun doing “night walks” in local neighborhoods to spread the message that violence is not acceptable in Richmond.
“We must continue to be a presence in the community,” Bernstine told the group. “We have to all come out from behind our stained glass windows and our steeples and get into the streets.”
Magnus, who has worked with African American clergy members closely since last year, said partnership between police and clergy is integral to maintaining the city’s progress reducing crime.
“I think we can work together to make this a good summer,” Magnus said.
Councilmen Corky Booze and Nat Bates were also on hand Saturday. Among the other items of discussion were increasing voter registration in the African American community ahead of November’s election.