HARTFORD, Conn — The shooting in Buffalo, N.Y. was declared to have been racially motivated. The alleged gunman specifically went to a predominately black neighborhood to target black people. FOX61 News caught up with church leaders in the Capitol City on the worries and concerns that may come moving forward while assembling in black spaces.
The church's doors often open as a safe haven for the black community, explained Pastor AJ Johnson of Urban Hope Refuge Church.
"The black church has been a part of the civil rights movement," said Johnson. "The black church has produced leaders; the black church is where power rests and resides. Therefore an attack on a grocery store is literally a few steps from attacking a black church."
So when racially targeted killings happen in places filled with majority black people, religious leaders said it's a harsh reminder that's not foreign to the church.
"Particularly for African Americans, the church has always been the target," Senior Pastor Rev. Trevor Beauford of Union Baptist Church.
The target, Rev. Beauford explained, goes back years, decades, even centuries.
"We go back to the church burnings of the civil rights movement where when we gathered together, they knew we'd be in church, and they'd target that place," explained Rev. Beauford. "So unfortunately though mass shootings are new, black folks being targeted in worship isn't."
Johnson added, "This hatred is something we're not unfamiliar with, but we're living in 2022, not 1966."
This is why black churches said they've always been on high alert for the safety of their congregation.
"It grieves my heart that we even have to have a conversation in the church about if a mass shooter enters this door, then we go out these doors," explained Rev Beauford. "And if a mass shooter goes in this door, we go out this door. This is how we arm doors. This is how we secure our space."
While there is some fear, there is even more safety and faith.
"We have enough to think about, enough to process, and enough to go through, but now this is something else we have to put on our plate," said Johnson.
"Being able to gather together in worship is what has sustained us since slavery, and we have to keep doing it for us to be able to survive," said Rev. Beauford.
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