Tea with the People, The Podcast: Episode 1

As part of a national reckoning, faith leaders in Washington, D.C. are calling for the city to reinvest 20% of Metropolitan Police Department funds into community healing work. We spoke to Pastor Delonte Gholston on what drew him to this work and why the time is now.

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Transcript

JEANELLE AUSTIN

Welcome to TEA WITH THE PEOPLE, the podcast. This is a series of conversations with innovative leaders who participate in our democracy by responding to racial injustices and inequities in the time of COVID-19. I’m Jeanelle Austin, the founder of Racial Agency Initiative.

JUSTINE LEE

And I’m Justine Lee, the co-creator of Make America Dinner Again. We engage leaders who work creatively to activate and support their communities. Through this podcast, we hope to inspire others to do the same.

JEANELLE

In this episode, we’ll be speaking to Reverend Delonte Gholston, senior pastor at Peace Fellowship Church in Washington, D.C. Here’s how they describe their organization. The mission of Peace Fellowship Church is to develop disciples of Jesus Christ, east of the river, who love God and love their neighbors. Pastor Delonte is currently organizing a coalition of congregations in D.C. to divest from the Metropolitan Police Department, and to reinvest in community healing work, violence prevention and intervention, and housing. He stands by the work of community-police dialogues called, “Trust Talks,” which he helped start in Los Angeles, California. However, in this season, Delonte is more interested in conversations with the police that lead to concrete, systemic change. 

Welcome Delonte, thank you for being here.

DELONTE GHOLSTON

Thank you. Thank you so much just for having me. I really am honored to have a chance to talk to you again my old friend. I’m really glad you can have me.

JEANELLE

Yes! Wonderful. Well, we’re excited to have you here. So just to kind of kick things off, we just want to ask, how are you feeling as we continue to navigate this national civil unrest? I mean, this has been going on for like three weeks now in all parts of the country. How are you feeling? How are you doing?

DELONTE

Well, I’m tired. I’m tired. I’ve been tired. You know, when this uprising began, I was already exhausted. Just the week prior, I had to bury a colleague of mine, Reverend, Dr. Ron Minor, who at 52 years old, succumbed to this virus. You know, brother who was with us when we first started doing peace walks in our community and first started really organizing in our community. I was already tired because my best friend… my best friend’s mom, sister, niece, nephew, they all got the virus. Most of them recovered. But his sister passed, you know? So I guess, I guess I would say that in our city already, just like every other major city in America, we were already seeing, although we only represent about 49% of the population here in DC, we represented over 70% of the cases of COVID. I know in Milwaukee, it’s closer to 80%.

So yeah, I’m tired because it was like, OK, here we go again. But then, the exhaustion and the tiredness and the weariness gave… started to give way to like a sense of… hold up this feels similar, but this… something about this feels different. And I started to wake up to the possibility that maybe, possibly, potentially, that God was up to something, that the Spirit was up to something. So yeah, it wasn’t lost on me that the uprisings, that the fire in the streets coincided with in the Christian tradition, remembering Pentecost, the fire that burned by the Holy Spirit to to bring people together across race across class, and that ultimately led them to start giving their money away, giving their…selling their houses and feeding the poor. Ultimately led to to women and men and eunichs, who were the queer folks of their day, being a part of this crazy Christian coalition. So I started to get energized. I went from being totally exhausted to then getting energized and figuring out OK, what do we got to do? Let’s move. Let’s rock. Let’s figure out how can we lean in and really mobilize our people in a different and a new way this moment requires.

JEANELLE

Wow. Well, first I want to say I’m sorry for your losses, and the grief that you all are carrying, because that’s something that we all recognize is that all of this civil unrest is happening with the backdrop of COVID-19. We’re still navigating the pandemic, and the impact the pandemic has, especially on the Black community. That’s still part of our reality too, in addition to the police violence that we’re trying to navigate across America. So I’m sorry for your losses. And my prayers are with you and your community.

DELONTE

Thank you. I really appreciate that. Thank you so much.

JEANELLE:

Of course, of course. Before we get too much into the work that you’re doing now, in the context of DC, we want to do a little bit of history… you to give us a little bit of history on your work in Los Angeles in co-creating Trust Talks. Can you tell us a little bit more about Trust Talks and when and why did you start it? Because I think it’s integral to the story of where you are now.

DELONTE

It’s one of those things where it’s like one of those “Where were you when,” right? You know, for the Millennial and Z generation, it’s where were you when that 9/11 happened, or were you born? For others, it’s where were you when the Challenger exploded? For our parent’s generation, it’s where were you when Dr. King was assassinated or where or maybe when Malcolm X was assassinated, or JFK was assassinated. And for me, it was where were you when Trayvon Martin was killed? And, it was 2013. I was in seminary in Pasadena. I had moved from DC to go to LA to attend seminary and I was in a white Evangelical seminary with folks from all over the world. But in a space that definitely centered whiteness, and that considered, you know all others as just that—an other—an optional aspect of a curriculum, a recommendation on a reading list and not something that was seen as vital to education or to Christian discipleship.

And it was in that context of sort of the beast of white Evangelicalism that I and others began mourning. And I remember I was with, actually one of our mutual friends, Jeanelle, I was with Tamisha Tyler who is a writer and a PhD candidate and an activist in their own right. I was with her and I was with my then friend now wife, Claire, and then Wiggins now Claire Gohlston, Claire Wiggins-Gholston. And we, we decided that we would take our mourning out into the streets that we got in the metro went downtown to Pershing Square where people were gathering to protest and we said his name, we mourned, we grieved. And that was the beginning of sort of a reawakening in me of a passion that I had when I was in college when I used to organize. 

And I just hadn’t done organizing in a long time. And so as part of seminary where I went, you had to do an internship and so I did my internship at this church in downtown LA, and I’m from DC, I’m learning about LA I know the history of the riots, or they call it the riots, we call it the uprising in ‘92, but I was still learning. And so I tried to take that posture of learning into one of the ministries at the church called New City Church where I was doing my internship that they had, and they were a part of this Clergy Council. And what I learned was that, that Clergy Council was actually formed by the LAPD. That the LAPD as a result of the riots, started these, what they call Clergy Councils, where their whole thing was we’re going to get pastors together with the community and do regular updates and build a relationship.

You know, there was a brother who was leading it. He’s an outstanding officer, his name is Deon Joseph, he’s got a heart of gold, he loves people. You know, really, truly, just just an amazing guy, whether he’s a cop or not, you know, he’s the kind of dude you say, this is a good human being. You know, he’s also a believer in Jesus, we connected on that. And, and, then, you know, sitting with all of the grief of Trayvon Martin. Here, comes Mike Brown, okay. Just like, I can’t finish grieving one one loss without having to grieve another loss. Oh, here comes Freddie Gray. We had a prayer vigil. And what happened is there was a African brother. He went by his name was Charlie Koornang. But he went by brother Africa. And he was an unhoused brother actually from Cameroon. He had a mental health crisis in downtown. He was in recovery. And people knew, you know, sometimes, you know, every now and then, you know, he would he would, you know, he would he would self medicate, right. And people knew and people knew what people loved him. But the police were called and eight officers tried to rather than de-escalating a situation with brother Africa. They surrounded him it’s on it’s on… the video went viral, they surrounded him. And there was a struggle. And, and they killed him.

JEANELLE

Wow.

DELONTE

That was in March of 2014. Whenever anyone died in the streets of our city, we held a vigil. So we held a vigil. But this vigil had to be different and I was asked to organize it. And we brought in activists we brought in people who are unhoused from the community we brought in also officers. At that vigil, I saw officer Joseph and his partner. They were in tears. They were holding the candles in their hands and we were singing a Christian… an old hymn and, and they were weeping with the community. And they were just saying, you know, this is, you know, this is not what should have happened here, we’re here with you, we’re here to weep with you. And I don’t know, to see black officers. You know, Officer Deon grew up in Long Beach, you know, he’s from LBC. You know, he, you know, he, he’s a brother, you know, he goes to Antioch Baptist Church, you know, what I’m saying he’s an ordinary brother, and I saw an opportunity that there might be a possibility of collective healing that could come out of, some serious tragedy.

And so he and I, we started talking and a couple of the couple sisters who had experienced homelessness. We got together and we started talking in the weeks after brother Charlie, brother Africa died, was killed. And we said what we need is to create a space where we can hear from each other and we can begin to collect community ideas around how to make policing better In downtown LA, and we called it theTrust Talks. We brought in facilitators from the Human Relations Commission in LA that I trained. We used an appreciative inquiry approach, which is an approach based on asking first what’s working and then what’s not working, we sort of used that approach as opposed to, you know, just leaving people in a tinderbox, you know, and just letting dynamite explode, you know.

JEANELLE

right.

DELONTE

We decided to, you know, really have a facilitated, you know, process. We used art so folks can write stuff. We used music, because I’m a musician. We brought in pastors from across the city. We coordinated with Black Lives Matter, even though they didn’t formally endorse it. And so we would bring in different activists as well, and you know, we would try to stack the deck really as much as possible so that the LAPD narrative wouldn’t be the only narrative that people heard. And we talked about mental health. We talked about housing, homelessness calls that they get, we talked about the fact that when you actually listen to the officers, they will tell you, “Look, I’m, I’m doing the best I can, but I’m the only person that comes when there’s a homelessness crisis or somebody is having a mental health crisis.” When you listen deeply to the officers, they will tell you that, you know, “I’m a human being and I’m… and there’s too much that’s being asked of me.” 

And we did that work, you know, over three years we held sessions in downtown LA. We coordinated with East LA, the police department in Boyle Heights. We did sessions in Inglewood with some black Muslims, some of whom had been part of the fruit of Islam that the security for Malcolm X back in the day, and it was a movement that was growing to train people. We would do trainings of the community first before they went into the trust talk so that they knew, hey, here’s a systemic frame. Here’s a systemic analysis for how policing can change. So when we have this Trust Talk, I want you to come prepared, you know what I’m saying? I want you to really push our rank in file officers around a change agenda. And so we, what we did was we brought students from UCLA, we brought soci-ethnographer students who would come in and then like, take notes at each of our tables. And then we coded those notes and collected sort of the raw data of the conversations and then presented that data to Councilmember José Huizar. We actually had staff from his office to also come and we, you know, compiled the data, gave it to his office to the mayor’s office and, and, and then it became part of an overall platform overall agenda in LA County, to, to transform, to at least to try to transform policing.

And so we tried to do both right. We tried to be at the tables having conversation, but then lead our people to be out in the streets with BLM turning up, you know, holding down space for 58 days as we did. We held, we held space for 58 days out in front of City Hall, holding Mayor… Mayor Garcetti accounts accountable for the death of Wakisha Wilson. So that’s sort of how the Trust Talks started. And then I left LA, and left the work in the hands of pastor Danny, but I grew, I grew weary. I grew tired of having conversations with the police and not seeing real systemic change, right. I grew weary of sitting at the table with the people that oppress you, that traumatize you. You already making yourself vulnerable to even do that, right. And then, you know, after you do that over and over and over again, we’re still rehearsing the same “liturgy of death.” We’re still rehearsing the same liturgy of pain and of grief, of black grief. I just, I don’t know, there’s only so much of that you can do without just having to do something else, you know. So that’s, that’s really what is behind the work that we’re doing right now. 

“I grew weary of sitting at the table with the people that oppress you, that traumatize you… After you do that over and over and over again, we’re still rehearsing the same ‘liturgy of death.’ We’re still rehearsing the same liturgy of pain and of grief, of black grief.”

JEANELLE

How have you transitioned to your work in DC?

DELONTE

Y’all have told us over and over again, you’re not a social worker, you told us we’re asking too much of you. So OK, let’s take some of the money that you’re currently putting toward new cars and new rocket launchers and new equipment to surveil black people and black bodies and let’s put it in what actually works. You know, let’s take you out of our school system, and, and put counselors in that we got schools that have more police in our schools than we have, counselors, school nurses, you know.

This is a time where, you know, we… It’s not like we haven’t done a deep listening to officers, we, you know, we listen, I listened to the commander of the police district where I live and I go to those meetings and I hear her out. And I have respect for her. She’s an African American woman that I deeply do respect and I believe that she does have the heart of the community in mind. And when I listen to her, she says, Pastor, we need you out in the streets. We need y’all, we need you.

And so the proposal that we put together is to take, you know, 20% of the Metropolitan Police Department’s budget, and to… and the language we use is a refund, you know, it’s our money belongs to the people. And so we basically said it’s time for us to get a refund. You know, nobody continues to… I used to work at Safeway. And you know, I used to work at the customer service counter. And, you know, black folk, we don’t come to the store after we done… you know, you don’t buy rotten chicken, right and come to the store, you don’t do it two times three times and keep coming back to the same store and saying I want I want an exchange. You know, after you done exchanged, you know, one pack a packet of rotten chicken for another packet of rotten chicken, you just say naw, I got receipts, give my money back, you know?

JEANELLE

Yes.

JUSTINE

Yeah.

DELONTE

You know, I may I want my money back. And you know, from our perspective, we got 401 years of receipts as a people. 401 years of…

JEANELLE

401

DELONTE

Come on, how many more? You see, it’s a long… It’s a long… It’s one of those receipts they used to tell us to collect…

JEANELLE 

We have CVS receipts that just keep coming!

DELONTE

You know, so we, you know, we said it’s time for a refund. It’s time for re-imagining policing. And, it’s time to reinvest.

“It’s time for a refund. It’s time for re-imagining policing. And, it’s time to reinvest.”

JUSTINE

Yeah, thank you for sharing all that Delonte. I am wondering if you could tell us more about the people you’re serving. And if there are any stories that stand out to you as encouraging moments as you’re doing this work in DC?

DELONTE

Oh, yeah. Well, it’s always been both-and for me, the work against state violence has always been integrally connected with the work against community violence. They’ve always been both-and. I grew up in this city in the 80s and 90s. I’m very familiar with the reality of gun violence. And so, in many ways, I’m a survivor of gun violence. My nephew was shot five times. Within two months of my moving back to the city. I moved back to the city in October 2017 and December of 17. He was shot. He survived, he was 16 at the time and by God’s grace, even though he was shot in his thigh and it hit a major artery. But my nephew was able to survive.

And, I learned that my father when he got shot. I learned that my father got shot, right. My father didn’t talk about it. I had seen the scar on his arm and, you know, and I thought he had got burned. I didn’t know what it was because, you know, he didn’t talk about it, right. But it took my nephew to get shot and almost leave here for me to learn then that my dad was shot. And it explained a lot actually about him actually. It explained a lot about some of the ways that my dad relates to the world as a black man that I really didn’t understand until I was almost, I just turned 40 this week. I was 38 years old when I found out you know that my dad was shot, you know?

It was kind of a weird, kind of a weird homecoming because when I came home, and when I noticed where the church is located, it’s a block away actually, from where I lost one of my one of my friends in 2014. He was shot and killed coming home from the metro, and so I was already sitting with that, and like processing that, at the time when my nephew was, was shot two months after moving back here.

And so I just felt the Spirit saying you can’t wait. You know, that was 2000 at the end, 2018 and 2019, the very beginning 2019 there was a triple homicide up the street from one of my colleagues’ church and I called him and I said, Pastor, we got to do something. This is this is an epi- this is an epidemic. You know, I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic now. But 2019 was when I kind of called clergy together to say look we’re in we’re experiencing a gun violence epidemic in our city. Like we’ve seen gun violence go up by 55% since 2012. And that’s just unacceptable. And you know, we’re a city that has more police, per capita, more police per citizen than any other city in America, DC has more police let me say it again, DC has more police per capita than any other city in America.

My point in saying that is that if the answer to you know, an epidemic of gun violence was solved by more policing, then like DC, you know, DC should be good. 

JEANELLE

Right 

DELONTE

You know, it should be, it should be like, you know, children running through fields of grass all over the place and just you know, but that’s not that’s not our reality. You know, the majority of the shootings that happened in my ward, in Ward 7, they happened right around the corner from the police station, you know what I’m saying so… But let’s not even, let’s not kid ourselves about thinking that police continue to… that police actually keep us safe. You know, in DC, Our rallying cry with BLMDC is “We keep us safe.” We keep us safe. Community checking on each other, you know, social workers, mental health workers. You know, teachers,  porch aunties that know everybody on the block, know everybody since they was a baby…

“Our rallying cry with BLMDC is ‘We keep us safe.’”

JEANELLE

Yes.

DELONTE

You know what I mean? That really keep us safe. And so, so we started organizing peace walks, in 2019. And we, over seven months, we did 14 walks where we just targeted communities that are most impacted by gun violence. And I think one of the real moments that really stands out to me is, we were in Kenilworth. It’s a public housing project. And we rolled up on, on a young brother who was 14 years old. And it, was it was like August, and he was in a wheelchair. And, we asked him, “Hey, man, Why are you in this wheelchair?” 

And he was like, “I got hit.” He’s like, “I got hit back in May.” 

…I don’t know… Beautiful chocolate, young, brother with his entire life ahead of him, sitting in a wheelchair. And we, when we came up on a… he was actually on a playground, you know, talking to his friends. Just this, this, this, this notion of a baby, you know, who can’t, who can’t even play like on the playground anymore, you know? And we were with a young, we were with another brother at the time who was going out with us.

We always went out… whenever we go out, we try to go out with somebody from the Department of Employment Services to be able to offer job opportunities. And we always had to go with somebody from Department of Behavioral Health to offer Mental Health and Counseling opportunities. And we always had to go out with somebody from the Office of Neighborhood Safety to offer like they have a program for returning citizens so we never go empty handed. We try to always go out with not only clergy and community, we also try to go out with like services that people actually need. Sometimes, we even also go out, like we’ll hold a fish fry and invite people to come to the fish fry after we finished doing the walk as a way to this like doing engagement.

But brother, Boon is his last name. I’m not gonna give his full name because I don’t know that he necessarily want his full name out there, but he pulled up his shirt in that moment. He was like, you see all these all these all these scars? He said that’s how many times I got hit. He got hit five times when he was 16. And he said I want you to know a little man you can do this you know, he said you know how long it took me to learn how to walk again. You know how long it took me to learn you know how to use how to use my extremities again, he was like keep fighting You know, he was like, keep fighting young brother keep fighting. You’re gonna make it you’re gonna make it. 

JEANELLE

Wow.

DELONTE

You know…

JUSTINE

Hm.

DELONTE

And I just had to sit with that like, you know, I just I don’t know, we sometimes realize how much like we are our own healing. Like, I don’t know how to say this. But it’s not lost on me as a pastor that like when God just I’m just gonna just in the Christian tradition when God finally decides to come, God comes in human flesh that ends up being mutilated and tortured, but ultimately, glorified and healed and like God in Christ, like goes around showing like scars to be like, Hey, have you seen what I’ve been through? You can make it, you know, I’m saying there’s no pain that you can go through that I hadn’t already overcome. And that’s what I heard in that moment. You know, I’m saying for my brother, and I heard him like literally pointing to his wounds, pointing to his scars and being like, you can make it because I’ve overcome, you know what I’m saying? And I, and I heard I heard the gospel in that, you know, so it was just powerful. You know, I don’t know, this is powerful to know that in the black community like we, we have, there’s healing if we just tell them, you know, if we just show up, we get out the church and like go to the people and like, share that with them.

“I just I don’t know, we sometimes realize how much like we are our own healing… There’s healing if we just tell them, you know, if we just show up, we get out the church and like go to the people and like, share that with them.”

JEANELLE

Yes, that is an absolutely powerful story. And what I’m hearing through your storytelling is that you all are taking a route in your city in your local context of addressing the challenge of racism through healing. So when you talk about divesting from the police department and reinvesting in your community healing work, it’s addressing directly racism in dismantling it by healing the people, by healing black people and giving them the capacity to thrive in who they were created to be. I think that’s beautiful. so that’s on a very, very local level. How do you think that this kind of work can potentially have a national impact? Right, because I think the pain of racism that you are identifying in DC exists in other spaces and communities throughout the United States. Do you think that this work has national implications?

DELONTE

I appreciate this question. I hesitate sometimes to try to nationalize local work. So that’s what that’s why that’s where I have pause. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t I can’t say that what’s happening in one place should happen in another place. But I guess I can say that what’s happening in one place can possibly inspire contextualized work in another space. You know, I’m saying like I would hate… You know what I’m saying? For somebody from, you know, Kalamazoo to come and try to tell me that what’s happening in Kalamazoo…That’s a real place. I sometimes use that as a placeholder, but it actually is a real place. No offense to those who are listening who are actually from Kalamazoo, my bad.

“I hesitate sometimes to try to nationalize local work… But I guess I can say that what’s happening in one place can possibly inspire contextualized work in another space.”

JEANELLE 

You can say, Minneapolis, I’m from Minneapolis. I’m here.

DELONTE

Like black folk in DC, I mean we want to hear from black folk in Minneapolis. You know what I’m saying? We want to hear from black folk in Milwaukee. We want to learn from black folk in Oakland like this work that we’re doing—real talk—came from work that passes we’re doing in Oakland. I’m saying like, I didn’t make this up. You know what I’m saying? I learned from what my brother, Pastor Mike McBride, and my brother, Pastor Ben McBride. You know, I learned from them. And in fact, when we first started, I actually had both Pastor Mike and Pastor Ben to come out and train our clergy around what this ethic can look like. I had Erica Ford come out from Life Camp Inc., from New York who works in Brooklyn, doing similar work, I had her to come out. I asked for the fam, who are on the ground already doing creative work to come and like speaking to our context, but at the end of the day, we had to wrestle with it ourselves and say, “Okay, how is this going to really speak to our context?”

And so… I’m… You’re right. This is work that is about healing. In fact, the foundational sort of Scripture that I come back to over and over again around this work is Jeremiah 8. God says to Jeremiah, “You have treated the wounds of my people as though it were not serious.” You know, and then he cries out, “Is there a balm in Gilead, right?” And so I reflect on that, like, and I’m just not down anymore with solutions that don’t take the wounds of our people serious, you know what I’m saying? I just can’t rock with that anymore. I’m just not at that point. I done turn 40. I’m a grown… You know, I’m a grown “bleep” man now, you know what I’m saying? I’m a grown man now. I can’t just keep talking, you know, saying and not and not having conversations that actually lead to change. But it would be wonderful if our work might help to inspire other work in other places. But everybody’s gonna have to figure out you know, how… you know what this work, what this kind of work can look like and you know, in their own context.

“I’m just not down anymore with solutions that don’t take the wounds of our people serious.”

But you know, broad parameters, broad frame… Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, deep healing work is going to take fundamental reinvestments in, you know, having clergy being on rapid response teams, so people are calling 911 or 211 or 111, or whatever, whatever you want to call it 311 that, that somebody who was a member of the faith community should come out. You know, along with the social worker, along with a mental health professional, along with some sort of a peer. I think those are the kind of approaches that I’m really interested in exploring. It doesn’t mean that, you know, there’s a bomb scare, you know, of somebody or somebody, you know, hold somebody at gunpoint that somebody isn’t gonna have to be called, you know, I’m saying to deal with that. But, but the vast majority of the calls as you, as you, as we listen to most police officers, they’ll tell you the vast majority of calls, they get are noise complaints, mental health crises, and you know, and people who experience homelessness, and that’s just they’ve already told you, I’m not trained in that so we’re like OK, good. Don’t worry about it. Let’s find folks who are.

JUSTINE

Mm hmm. I mean, you’ve described some of the change that you want to see in your community. I’m curious if you can expand on that and focus specifically on what is your vision, or your hope for how people engage government? In DC?

DELONTE

Yeah. Thank you for asking that. Um, so we just last week, we just had a series of hearings, that the Charles Allen who was the Chairman of the Committee of the Judiciary and Public Safety, held, and just as a frame of reference last year, we came to that we held hearings and we came out to those hearings as well and testified but there were only about 25-30 people that testified. This year, there were 15,000 people that signed up to testify. And only 90 of 15,000 were actually able to present their testimony live, most of us had to actually email, you know, letters or testimony in to be submitted as part of the public record. So I just want to say that there is a groundswell of momentum around this issue. So, so that’s huge. That’s major.

I was just on a call at five o’clock today, where our local council member who came out with us and did trust talks with us. He has proposed putting forth a policing commission gathering folks who are doing this work to actually compile all the best practices and make recommendations to the council. And I challenged him about this on this call because I actually think that commissions are actually moves that politicians frequently make, to to put a pin in or to take air out of out of out of out of a movement you know, you establish commission, you write a report, you know, you make recommendations, but I’m like, OK, now this ain’t the time. You know, I got to challenge him. You know, I mean, if he hears this is fine, but I told him, I told him this afternoon I’m not trying to be on no commission. He was like, “Yeah, Pastor Gohlston, we’d love to have you on the commission, I put your name up to recommend you on the commission.” I was like, OK, but that’s not what that’s not what I’m talking about. You know, I’m not trying to be on nobody’s commission to write no report is gonna sit and collect dust nowhere. I’m not about deflecting from the energy, no momentum of this moment. 

But I mean, we organized clergy, over 100 clergy and faith leaders from across the city, churches, synagogues, faith communities of all sorts, to send that letter to the council. We’ve already received a response from a couple of council members already saying, “Hey, I’m with you, I support let’s figure out specific details.” I’m not waiting for a commission to be established. You know, the time is now the budget is going to be approved by the end of this month. So we got to if we’re going to make moves, you know, we have to make moves now. And so our document is called “The Time Is Now” happy to share it with anybody and we’re just calling for, like I said, a refund to reimagine policing and policing accountability. And for and for reinvestment. We also started by repentance because I felt like it was necessary that the church say, “Hey, look, the black death has occurred under our watch and we haven’t been as faithful as we should be.” So I didn’t start you know what I’m saying with calling for for Donald Trump to repent. I didn’t start with calling for the Minneapolis PD to repent. No. I started with saying to faith communities to repent for being too close to power, trying to preserve our relationship with the Mayor, And trying to preserve our relationship with the City Council and all type of stuff and not actually being about it, you know for our people.

JUSTINE 

How can people get involved? What help do you need right now?

DELONTE

Yeah, here, here in DC, we need folks to call Councilmember Charles Allen’s office. We need folks to email him. He’s the Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. We need folks to call and email Mayor Bowser, We need folks to email Deputy Mayor Kevin Donahue who’s the Deputy for Public Safety, we need folks to call their offices, flood their phone lines, flood their email addresses. That’s Mayor Muriel Bowser. That’s Deputy Mayor Kevin Donahue. And that’s Charles Allen,who’s the chairperson of the Committee on Public Safety here in DC Because we can’t just have a city where we paint Black Lives Matter in the middle of 16th Street and rename, you know, out in front of White House Black Lives Matter Plaza, and we still proposing budgets that give $18 million increase to the police department.

JEANELLE

Okay, come on now. 

DELONTE

So that that that would be the, that would be the call is to flood their flood their phone lines, flood their email addresses. And hold them accountable to this document. The time is now. The document is called “The Time Is Now.”

JUSTINE

The time is now. Okay. Yeah, we’ll be sure we’ll be sure to share a link to that and get that call to action out to our listeners. Thank you.

JEANELLE

And Delonte, how can people follow you or follow this movement? Do you have handles? hashtag? How can people keep up with what the work that you all are doing and organizing?

DELONTE

The handle is his PeacewalksDC on Instagram, it’s PeacewalksDC on Facebook as well.

JEANELLE

Delonte, thank you so much for all the golden nuggets that you have shared with us throughout this podcast.  One final question we have for you: Can you share with us a word of wisdom as a parting gift to our listeners? 

DELONTE

Now

JEANELLE

Mm

JUSTINE

hmm. Yeah. I feel that.

JEANELLE

Thank you.

JUSTINE

Yeah, thank you so much Delonte, for joining us today and for sharing your stories. They were deeply powerful, and, and for sharing some of what you’ve learned from all the work you’ve done both in in LA and also the ongoing work you’re doing in DC. Really appreciate your time.

DELONTE

I appreciate you all. Keep us. Keep us in your prayers. I appreciate y’all having me.

JEANELLE

We will. Thank you.

JUSTINE

Well, this has been TEA WITH THE PEOPLE, the podcast.

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