Philadelphia Black clergy reflects on year after murder of George Floyd

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Monday, May 24, 2021
Philly Black clergy reflects on year after murder of George Floyd
One year after the murder of George Floyd, Black clergy members say there's been progress but not complete peace.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Pastor Carl Day will never forget May 25, 2020: the day George Floyd was murdered. In the subsequent days, outrage spilled into the streets of cities across the country including Philadelphia. Day was right there among the crowds.

"I was everywhere, I don't know how much I even slept during the Floyd protests," he said.

Day tried to be a calming presence among the anger and protests. His fellow clergy member Reverend Robert Collier recalled feeling some of the same emotions.

"We had so much rage and hurt ourselves, but we had to push that aside because we cannot help the community if we haven't cleansed ourselves," said Collier, who is president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity.

Clergy members across the area sought to provide that same type of cleansing to other members of the community who were hurting.

"We've been peacemakers for the most part because we want to keep peace within our community," said Collier.

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That work of making peace wasn't easy in the first days of anger and rioting that overcame some parts of Philadelphia following Floyd's murder.

"We want our people to understand that when you riot, (when) you loot, you only hurt yourself. You hurt your community," said Collier.

Calming communities has been a large part of the work for clergy members over the past year. That goal was complicated by the pandemic.

"We have to remind ourselves it was at the height of COVID," said Day.

"It's been very traumatic on the faith community as a whole," said Collier. "Because we as preachers and pastors have not been able to embrace our members (due to COVID)," he said.

One year after Floyd's murder, clergy members say there's been progress but not complete peace.

"The reality of it is we're still in a bad place because 181 Black folks have been killed after the George Floyd fiasco. So nothing has really changed," said Collier.

That's why the work continues. The Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity has created a gathering called "First Fridays," in which congregations across the city gather for prayer vigils at their places of worship on the First Friday of every month.

The group has also made itself available to speak with city leaders and leaders within the Philadelphia Police Department. Collier says their mission is to see police reform.

"This will stem the tide of murders of Black men by police in the future. We're dedicated to that cause," said Collier.

Day says one year isn't long enough to see all of the change that communities need. He thinks the work needs to continue far past the one-year anniversary of Floyd's murder.

"I think if we continue to do a little each day, we can tackle a large issue," said Day.