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Women faith leaders on the front lines in the fight against gun violence in Wards 7 and 8 prayed and strategized on March 25 during a prayer breakfast at Union Temple Baptist Church in southeast D.C.
While pastors of all genders have waged war against gun violence for years, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is using the faith leaders on her team to work with women pastors in this effort to light a particular fire under an old issue.
“Women are essential when it comes to healing and spiritual direction,” said the Rev. Anika Wilson-Brown, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church.
“[Women] have a relationship with pain that gives us the power to transform it into something beautiful,” Wilson-Brown, a social worker and wife of a D.C. police officer, added.
“God gifts women to heal, and Wards 7 and 8 need the power of healing and love… now more than ever,” Wilson-Brown explained. “As women create safe spaces for ourselves, our communities can also become safer.”
Thomas Bowen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs, said at this time in the city’s history, women are in a unique position to make a difference.
“We are a city that can proudly boast having the first African American woman to be elected to three four-year terms as mayor of an American city,” Bowen said.
Bowen singled out Linda Harllee Harper, director of the District’s Gun Violence Prevention program that is reportedly already bearing fruit.
“We just graduated 25 young people from a nine-week program who have turned their lives around,” Harper said in an interview.
More than 150 people attended the prayer breakfast, which was organized by clergy and faith leaders in Wards 7 and 8. Among the many speakers were former White House adviser Barbara Williams Skinner and the Rev. Karen Curry, associate minister of the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church.
“I am so proud to see women of faith claim territory, this is faith in action,” said Skinner, who is also working with the anti-gun initiative.
Rev. Dr. Wanda K. Thompson, the pastor of the Ambassador Baptist Church in Southeast, said “Women are recognizing the power that we have when we work together.”
In addressing core issues in Wards 7 and 8, Thompson said, “A lot of it has to do with poverty and a lack of resources in the community in terms of jobs, housing, and education.
“People are very concerned about the displacement of brown and Black people in the community and [building] housing they can’t afford. It all contributes to problems.”
The Rev. Patti Fears, pastor of the Fellowship Baptist Church and president of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention, also attended the prayer breakfast.
Curry said the event was special because it was a wonderful fellowship among spiritual sisters.
“For the first time, we had a prayer breakfast for women of faith from Ward 7 and Ward 8,” Curry said.” This was just a time to come off the battlefield and be refreshed.”