Reverend Nikia Smith Robert organized the march for three reasons.
“The impetus came first from a personal application as an African American woman and mother,” the associate minister and director of the Social Action Commission of Pasadena’s First African Methodist Episcopal Church says. “Second, it came from wanting to be on the front lines of Ferguson but not being able to leave my children. And last, it came from Pasadena’s peculiar silence on the heels of the non-indictments of the officers who killed Eric Garner and Mike Brown.”
Being a leader at her church, Robert felt it was the duty of her faith community to speak out against police brutality. Black and brown lives matter, she explains, in spite of the fact that they are considered an “other.” “It is time for us to reclaim our humanity, our voice, and our power,” she says. “To say, ‘enough’.”
It was with this in mind that Robert and several other churches and organizations—All Saints Episcopal church, the Pasadena branch of the NAACP, Progressive Christians Uniting, Aspire, and more—came together for a peaceful protest in Pasadena on Sunday. The demonstration took place in conjunction with National Black Solidarity Sunday, which was observed across the nation in light of the controversy surrounding the deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown and the subsequent acquittals of the police officers who killed them. “There is a duty for the faith community to lend a moral voice to this,” says Francisco Garcia, the director of peace and justice ministries at All Saints. “For us to be silent in the face of this would not be right.”
Hundreds of protestors marched through Old Pasadena alongside Anya Slaughter, whose unarmed, 19-year-old son Kendrec McDade was killed by Pasadena police in 2012, before holding a prayer vigil at City Hall. And while Roberts considers the event a success on the whole, the true win for L.A., she says, was the outpouring of support and solidarity from the Pasadena Police Department. “To have the police be extremely hands on with the organizational efforts and to see them come together with the community in the black and brown struggle, that is what made the event successful,” Robert says. “Seeing [Chief of Police] Phillip Sanchez lead a prayer for police and having him tell me he was going to hold his men and women accountable shows that police and the communities they serve can work together,” she says. “That was pivotal.”