Two D.C. pastors who serve communities devastated by gun violence were sitting in the sunshine on Wednesday and speaking about their work to stop the shooting.
They spoke about organizing peace walks, giving out food, connecting people with jobs and health care, supporting families who have lost loved ones and encouraging suspects to turn themselves in.
Then shots rang out as they spoke — twice.
“I’m trying to find that balance of how to be present for the community,” Rev. Delonte Gholston began to say. A shot could be heard, and Gholston turned his head.
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“As gunshots ring off while we’re doing the interview,” he continued, hardly missing a beat.
Gholston leads Peace Fellowship Church in Deanwood. He spoke alongside Pastor Walter Staples, of Temple of Praise in Washington Highlands. Both neighborhoods see high rates of gun violence, and the sound of shots is sadly familiar.
Staples said their work to help people affected by shootings is constant.
“Just to be able to handle the grief side of it alone is beyond what I can really even explain,” he said.
He recently delivered Nyiah Courtney’s eulogy. The 6-year-old was killed in a drive-by shooting this summer.
“That particular service was probably one of the hardest I’ve ever had to experience. Sweet, innocent, beautiful young lady lost her life to senseless, senseless violence,” Staples said.
The pain has been personal too.
Gholston lost a close friend to a robbery and shooting near the Deanwood Metro station. A month later, his nephew survived being shot five times.
“I’m in this to save bodies, to save communities, to heal, and also to hopefully in the process be healed myself,” he said.
Both pastors said they want to see D.C. invest more resources east of the Anacostia River, including in schools, health care and grocery options. For now, they do what they can.
“The responsibility for solving this crisis is up to all of us. We all have a role to play,” Gholston said.
Go here to see other stories in News4’s series Gun Violence: A Call to Action.