There is Power in Community
Ministers, figures in the community, musicians, performers, and public servants came together on March 30 at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, and got all fired up during the final Prayer Breakfast before the April 6 rally. Four hundred people gathered to hear speakers share their truths about the divisions that keep us apart and the power we give to God by coming together united as diverse people. The energy started off high and just kept growing. Dr. Evon McMurray, Master of Ceremonies, said it well when she said, “There is power in prayer.” Tickets for seats to the peace rally were given out as the program came to a close.
Deputy Chief Dennis Kato of the Los Angeles Police Department shared a message that spoke on a very practical level on how the Peace Starts With Me Movement can help the Los Angeles community youth and heal members of the police department.
“When I was told by Bishop Noel Jones, ‘We have a prayer breakfast we’d like you to attend this Saturday,’ I said I would be there. He also told me he has an event at the City of Refuge Church on April 6 and I said I will be there also, along with all my captains. I really do have to thank him for bringing these guys into my life at this moment in time where I think it’s very important to build these partnerships, to build these relationships and help each other come together and reduce crime, reduce hate, reduce violence. I believe this message of Peace Starts With Me is so appropriate at this time and place in the city of Los Angeles. I want to assure everybody in this room the LAPD is here to partner with you; we’re committed to serving with you; whatever I can do, whatever the department can do to help you in your mission to make the community better, we are here.
“A little bit about what we’re trying to do as police and law-enforcement in this community of Los Angeles: I think a number of our youth in the community right now have not lost faith, but do not grow up in that type of environment. That’s when what you do and what your churches do are so vital for a healthy community. Our youth and our next generation—simple things like taking care of our elders, respecting elders, doing well in school—those are simple messages that I grew up with; those are messages that were taught to me through my church and I think a number of us in this room who are about my age, we all grew up with those tenets and I think we have to get back to that. Whatever I can do to help get that message out there, we are here.
“I also wanted to ask each of you who has a congregation, a church within the city of LA to please reach out to me through Bishop Noel Jones who is a great partner and friend of mine for a number of years. It could help me build relationships with the youth of today, and what I mean by that is that there is such a distrust at that age range of 16 to 25 with the police that I think it hurts and hinders our ability to try to work and heal the community. Wherever I can inject officers to have these communications with your youth groups I am all for it. I think it’s time that we have these conversations, and some of them may be painful, but I think it is important so that the next generation will have a better place and be in a better partnership with the law enforcement agents. From a police officer’s management position, I also want to heal my officers. What I mean by that is, overtime officers respond to a community, but what they respond to everyday is violence, such as calls about domestic violence, so their hearts are hardened over their shift. For 10 hours they just harden their hearts and they have to build a wall that protects them, and I think that’s a wall that gives them away when all of a sudden they just want to have a normal conversation with someone.
“To break the wall, I know I have to engage my officers in nontraditional events such as church services or other events at your church, whether it’s a clothing giveaway or something like the City of Refuge is hosting next week. Officers will be able to mingle and talk with community members in a nonthreatening, non-violent encounter. That’s when real conversation can take place. That is when they truly understand who is in the community and they make bonds and relationships. This is what I ask of you: to please help me help my officers by giving them those opportunities to engage with your community in a nonviolent, nontraditional environment. I really wanted to be here because I thought it was very important for me to at least introduce myself to you, but for me to also thank you for all of the work you have been doing and for all the work you continue to do. It’s very important for a healthy community and I applaud everybody. Keep your heads up, keep the faith and keep working because we are so much better in the city of Los Angeles then we were in the 80s and 90s.”