Hundreds joined together in the name of justice and prayer in the heart of the Hill District, to create a driven force demanding change in the community. All the churches of the Pittsburgh Hill District banded together to speak against the chaos of the world and the injustices taking place in the judicial system.
“This rally has united and galvanized our community to a point where the Black church speaks with one voice,” Rev. Victor J. Grigsby from Central Baptist Church said. “The solidarity has empowered us to speak to the social, economic and spiritual crisis that is affecting our city.”
On Sunday Jan. 4, the city of Pittsburgh’s Hill District churches joined for a non-violent demonstration of the recent violence against the victimization of African-American males in our country.
Roughly 1,000 people marched the streets of Centre Avenue to Freedom Corner singing, chanting and holding signs that spoke to the value of African-American lives.
People of all colors, ages, gender and background attended the event. Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay attended the rally to show support for the cause.
“I was astonished by the magnitude of the crowd,” said rally participant, Walter Butler. “I was absolutely blown away, and also overjoyed to see so many people of all ages join together to spread peace, promote justice, and pray as one.”
“People/churches unite will never be defeated,” said Rev. Glenn Grayson, Wesley Center AMEZ. “We are here to promote unity, justice, and love. We must come together, if we plan to foresee change.”
The Hill District pastors coordinated the Prayer and Justice rally three weeks prior to the event. Pastors unselfishly contributed to the effort by engaging their congregations to march on the first Sunday.
“We felt it was important to march on the first Sunday of 2015 to transition into a new year with a new hope and new outlook,” Rev. Grigsby said. “We did not want to carry the social, cultural, and systematic burdens of the prior year.”
The pastors of the Hill District churches felt this rally was necessary because of the lack of indictment by the grand juries in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City. There was urgency for the Black church to respond. However, the aim of the rally was prayer. They first started the rally praying to God for the healing of the nation, and second, to appeal to the elected officials to correct the broken justice system.
“It was crucial that the Black churches of Pittsburgh step up, and step in during this time,” Pastor Brian J. Edmonds of Macedonia Baptist Church said. “The prayer and justice rally was necessary, and it shows in the number of people who participated. This rally was a true example of peace and unity, however we believe prayer is the overall answer to seeing change.”
Six pastors of four different denominations prayed God’s blessings over the city and the nation. There were specific prayers referencing God’s healing of the community, race, relations, education, and public safety and policing. They also took prayer request during the rally.
Topics such as the Leon Ford and Jordan Miles cases were addressed during the rally. While they also addressed the hiring of more African-American police officers, and the need for community-sensitivity training by all current and future police officers and officials in Black communities.
“The prayer and justice rally was one of the best community events I have ever attended,” said rally participant Chayla Carter. “And being that I am an active member of the community, the prayer rally is at the top of my list. It touched my heart to see so many join together for something positive, and spread God’s love.”
While this was not the first event that was held through the Hill District Minister Alliance, the prayer and justice rally was, however, by far the most successful in numbers. The Hill District Minister Alliance plans to hold more events similar to this as needed.
“Let us leave Freedom Corner strengthened in our resolve to make this city a city known not just for its three rivers, but for its compassion for the poor and its promotion for the least of these,” Rev. Grigsby said. “Let us leave this historic site determined to make the city of Pittsburgh a city of faith, and a city for God where the presence of God, the power of God, and the peace of God is recognized as much as the steel that built its foundation and the stadiums that garnish its waters.”
Additional Photos from March