In response to the ongoing shootings claiming still more Black lives, the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network has announced the formation of a Gun Violence Task Force.

During a Nov. 19 press conference at Valley View Presbyterian Church in Lawrenceville, PIIN President Rev. John Welch of Bidwell Presbyterian Church said the task force was an outgrowth of the network’s Holy Ground campaign and introduced Co-chairs Rev. Glenn Grayson of Wesley Center AMEZ and Rev. Chad Collins of Valley View.

DIVINE RIGHT—PIIN Gun Violence Task Force Co-chair Rev. Glenn Grayson, left, explains the task force’s goals as fellow Co-chair Rev. Chad Collins and PIIN President Rev. John Welch look on. (Photo by Gail Manker)

Reverend Collins said the task force is still in its formative stages, but there are already 15 members from the network’s 40 congregations working on defining strategies.

“One thing we are working on in the immediate setting up a meeting with Mayor Ravenstahl to address our concerns and seek increased financial support from his administration for all matters that affect our young people and perpetuate the chaos of gun violence in our communities,” he said.

In particular, Rev. Collins said, they would like to see officers return to park-and-walk policing to build trust with communities, but Chief Nate Harper said he doesn’t have the funding or manpower to do that now.

Collins said the shooting death of Grayson’s son crystallized the task force idea that many of the member churches had been working on in isolation.

“We are assembling a group of clergy and lay folk from across this city to take immediate and long term action within the streets of our own communities and within the streets of our City, County, State Government to see a significant and sustainable decrease in gun violence,” he said.

Churches, once the glue of the Black community withdrew behind their walls in response to the violence, he said. They can no longer do that Collins said. He added PIIN is also seeking to work with PA Cease Fire on issues related to getting illegal guns off the streets.

“We have to be out in the street, and we will be,” he said. “There is no us and them, it’s only us. All the land and people are holy we can’t show people that if we don’t go out.”

Collins said the PIIN task force is also working to forge bonds with Black mega-churches and community organizations.

“We hope to develop a network of initiatives so we know what each congregation’s members are doing.

We have to put our denominational and competitive differences aside. I think city and county would embrace helping that initiative.”

Collins said PIIN would make a more detailed presentation, probably in January after meeting with the mayor.

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