By Nicholas Ibarra | OBSERVER Staff Writer
“May Peace be in Our Hearts; May Peace be in Our Communities; May Peace be in Our Schools; May Peace Prevail On Earth.” — A totem displayed in front of where a vigil was held in downtown Sacramento Monday night.
Tensions and emotions ran high as families, community members, and leaders gathered with candles to mourn the lives lost in the tragic shooting that happened in Downtown Sacramento early Sunday morning.
The vigil was led by community activist Berry Accius, who was joined by Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Councilmember Rick Jennings, Dr. Kristee Haggins and Bishop Parnell M. Lovelace Jr., among others.
The main message of the vigil was accountability and the importance of investing in youth, mental health services, and security.
“This is no longer going to be a talking point,” Accius said in regards to the shooting. “There’s going to be action behind all of the talking and conversation because we need to move forward with what change looks like.”
Accius then introduced Mayor Steinberg, who thanked Accius for his leadership and voice, and then proceeded to read the names of the six people killed April 2.
“Tonight we are here for Johntaya (Alexander, 21), for Melinda (Davis, 57), for Sergio (Harris, 38), for Devazia (Turner, 29), for Joshua (Hoye-Lucchessi, 32) and for Yamile (Martinez-Andrade, 21),” he said. “We gathered today (Monday) to mourn their senseless deaths and for their loved ones, some of whom are represented here tonight.”
“If this occasion can elevate the issue of caring better for one another, treating each other with more kindness and attending to mental health as well as physical health, we’ll save a lot of lives and we’ll be a better community,” said Mayor Steinberg.
Bishop Lovelace, founder and senior pastor of Center of Praise Ministries, which is located downtown, approached the podium and called everyone together in prayer. He asked that God look after the grieving families and the city of Sacramento.
“Give us the boldness and the courage to do whatever we need to do, so that there will be change,” Bishop Lovelace prayed. “And that Father, we as a city, the city of Sacramento, will live as our name denotes, the city of sacrament; a holy place. Let love prevail in this city. Let care prevail in this city.”
‘Change Has To Be Made’
Accius pointed out the national media and the importance of taking action as Sacramento sits on the world stage.
“Six people died, more were injured. Our city is shook,” he said. “This is the second… I said the second mass shooting we’ve had in Sacramento.”
“What are we going to do about that, city?” he thundered as he raised his voice and faced the crowd. “Our voices can no longer be silent! You must be heard! Your public officials are right here to hear you! Do not be silent!”
Jackie Henderson, Sergio Harris’ cousin, took the opportunity.
“How many times are we going to sit back and talk about the next time?” Henderson passionately declared. “When the hell are we going to start? When are we gonna get off our butts, off our couches, off our phones and start doing something?”
“When is every man, woman and child going to stand up on their own two, take accountability for what they’re doing and change our city,” he continued. “I’m just one man, that’s all I am, but my truth will reach the ears of thousands. We can’t come up here anymore, have vigils and sit back and say, ‘it’s not going to happen again.’ We have to change things.”
“It starts with telling our youth that it’s OK if you’re not accepted, there are people that will accept you. It’s OK that you come from an impoverished neighborhood, there’s a way out. My cousin was one of them,” he exclaimed. “He was a father, he was a husband, he was a great man, and he had his light taken from him, shot in the back. Unacceptable!”
“Change has to be made. And if you want to know who’s gonna make the change, when you go home, look in the damn mirror.”
Accius addressed the mayor directly and ensured that this moment would not be taken for granted or forgotten, “Our public officials are going to honor putting more support into all of the investments that we see fit to move forward, yes?”
“Yes sir,” the mayor replied. “More money for young people, more money to fight gun violence, more money for the community. You better believe it.”
Accius made it clear that it is the responsibility of the community to hold others accountable.
“Gun violence will affect everyone here one day,” he said. “Today, it’s those six people. Tomorrow, it can be you. I ask you today, ‘What are you going to do to make sure tomorrow is better?’”
“We are the change, people. We are Sacramento and we will stay Sacramento strong, even in this tragic moment,” he finished.
Policy change and accountability from the community and its leaders is what Sacramento needs, but what else can people do in this time to help?
“We’ve got to come together and do more to just love and care for each other,” Bishop Lovelace said to The OBSERVER. “We’ve got to have some clear, honest and open dialogue about all the things that are happening in our community with this gun violence and really take steps to help our young people and provide resources and services for them.”
“Hopefully we can prevent these events from ever happening by coming together, making space, understanding our diversity, understanding our differences and understanding that the answer is never responding with a gun,” he said. “Because once that life is taken, we can’t get it back.”