In the wake of the murders of two African American youths, Jolesa Barber (12) and Ernest Tolliver (15), on the 28th and 29th of January, 2008, Rev. Johnnie Monroe and the PIIN Spiritual Leaders caucus declared enough is enough.
On January 30th, Rev. Johnnie Monroe called on the spiritual leaders of PIIN to meet with police Chief Nate Harper to begin discussions on stemming the proliferation of gun violence. During the meeting, PIIN leaders decided to launch a Holy Ground Campaign and Chief Harper agreed to fully support the initiative.
On February 1st, Rev. Welch organized a meeting with the NAACP’s religious affairs committee to further engage non PIIN members in the campaign. During that meeting a candle light vigil was organized to take place on the street where Jolesa Barber was murdered as a show of support for her family and to declare our campaign. 20 pastors including 10 who were members of PIIN committed to the campaign.
On February 5th at 9 PM, 200 women, men, and children gathered at Bright Ridge Place, where Little G (Jolesa Barber) was gunned down to declare that we would not stand for the gun violence any more. Reverends Monroe, Grayson, and Welch led the group in a series of prayers. Court of Common Pleas’ Judge Dewanye Woodruff was on site to support the event and plead with the people to “do something” to help save our children who want to do the right things. There were pastors from the northside who committed to join our effort, leaders of other community groups and initiatives who declared that they would partner with us to begin addressing gun violence and the upstream issues that lead to it.
In a rousing benediction, Rev. John Welch announced that “We are declaring Holy Ground on the North Side. We are declaring Holy Ground on the East End. We are declaring Holy ground in the West End. And, we are declaring Holy Ground in the South Side. It is time for us to stand up and let the powers that be know that the people of Pittsburgh are some bodies too”. He also reminded the people that our situation did not get like this over night and that it was not going to be addressed over night., That the solutions to these problems will have to addressed in the School board chambers, city chambers, county chambers and in Harrisburg and Washington D. C.
Members of PIIN, this is the year that we take unwavering stand to combat those issues that stamp out prosperity and cause a sense of hopelessness. This year we declare Pittsburgh Holy Ground!!