The tone was set from the start Sunday evening: We're together, not apart.
That's how it was on the steps of the Bakersfield Police Department, where, at 5 p.m. on the dot, pastors, community members and BPD officers gathered at the Truxtun Avenue headquarters for what was advertised as "earnest prayers for unity and forgiveness, for mutual trust and love."
As the sun beat down, those at the top of the stairs invited those below to come on up and shelter from the heat — together, not apart.
A series of speeches and prayers was offered during a time of civil unrest in the nation. They centered around peace, understanding, the safety of all and compassion for one another.
"Let Bakersfield become a model city of unity," said Pastor Gregory Tatum of Change Community Church. "Let Bakersfield become a beacon light."
He urged people to "deescalate and defuse" when problems arise.
Pastor Josephate Jordan of Christ First Ministries asked for love, peace and harmony.
"We aren't against protesting, but we are against rioting," Jordan said.
BPD Chief Greg Terry spoke too, noting that while "we are not perfect," his department seeks to work side by side with the community for safety, striving for compassion, accountability and professionalism.
"Is it OK if I say a prayer?" Terry asked before the roughly 40 people assembled. "Yes!" was the reply, as he went on to ask for open hearts and minds — and wisdom.
Among her prayers, Mayor Karen Goh sought mercy and a constant spirit of humility.
Arleana Waller, founder of the MLKcommUNITY Initiative, urged continued conversations with law enforcement. She said when something does not go right, officers are in pain too just like the wider community. Waller prayed that people stand in a space of love.
Citing Ephesians 4:25 from the Bible, Pastor Angelo Frazier, a BPD chaplain of nearly 30 years, emphasized the need to speak truth to one another.
"Love is the greatest weapon we can have, we can choose," Frazier said.
Sometimes mistakes are made, he said, but that is not the goal. He urged law enforcement, men and women, Black and white to come together.
They did so in the warm sun Sunday evening, ending with lots of fist bumps, and smiles evident even behind face masks.