PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Joseph Fleming’s number one goal was to have people leave the parking lot Monday night with hope.
It’s the reason the second-generation pastor for Third Baptist Church in Portsmouth helped organize a “Park and Pray” event Monday evening at St. Mark Missionary Church in Portsmouth. Hundreds of vehicles lined up in an open field for an hour of singing and prayer focused on justice, equality, healing and peace.
While Fleming prayed for victims of COVID-19, it was clear the event, which was attended mainly by African Americans, was focused on addressing the death of George Floyd and the racial atmosphere many believe led to it.
“I’m still processing it and it left me devastated,” Fleming said. “Our speaking out matters, our voting matters …. and we do not have to tolerate this type of criminal behavior anywhere.”
Guest speakers included Portsmouth Sheriff Michael Moore, who wanted people to know where he as a law enforcement officer stands.
“I want you to know that our office and I are dedicated to ensure your safety, and to work hand-in-hand with you and work toward a justice that can bring the healing and peace we all need,” Moore said.
However, he ended his remarks with several powerful statements about breaking stereotypes.
“Not all black people are criminals. Not all white people are racist. Not all law enforcement officers are bad and ignorance comes in all colors,” Moore said.
Several speakers reinforced a message that looking to a higher power would reap better benefits than focusing on anger.
“As a born again Christian. I do take solace in the word of God that reminds me that injustice is never a reason for revenge,” state Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) said.
Fleming said people young and old need to realize some change has been made. All hope is not lost.
“Impacts have been made even during the protests,” Fleming said. “We have seen a change even in our city. Even in our state, we’ve seen change and we are looking forward to more change.”
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