Local faith and community leaders stood on the front steps of the State Capitol and asked Louisiana residents to reject inequality and push for change.
"We are living through the twin crisis of COVID-19 and racial reckoning," said Quentin Messer, president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance. "Louisiana has failed to demonstrate union, justice, confidence. But it is within our power to change this."
Around 60 people showed up to listen to the program, which was arranged by the Louisiana Faith Alliance, a coalition of pastors, lawyers, doctors, business owners, educators and students who seek to protect and defend civil rights.
Throughout the rally, about 20 different speakers prayed, sang and implored participants to lift the state out of economic inequality, poverty, crime and racism.
When Baton Rouge man Calvin Mills was growing up, he always remembered seeing Black protesters wearing suits to protest the nation’s injustice.
The message throughout the program was consistent: Louisiana residents must overcome their differences to change the state for the better. Speakers frequently asked those gathered pray for healing in their community and that they work together in their faith to resist old traps of injustice.
Many quoted the Bible, while others referenced stories and scripture passages they felt were relevant to the problems facing the country today.
"People of faith must abandon the historic silence and complicity," said Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. "And through God's power and God's word, knock down those strongholds and the flawed thinking that has been here for much too long, that divides us, inhibits us from progress and equality."
Other speakers focused on the importance of breaking down systems they say are dividing communities, such as "the cradle to prison cycle."
"It is said that rising tides don't lift all boats, particularly those boats that are stuck at the bottom," said Judge John Guidry of the Louisiana Court of Appeal, First Circuit. "And in our state, there are too many individuals who are stuck at the bottom of crime and violence."
He underscored the importance of early childhood education and job skills to break these cycles.
Pat Magee, director of the criminal division of the Louisiana Department of Justice, spoke about the importance of residents being a part of the systemic change they wish to see in their community.
Other faith leaders, such as Pastor Brady Whitton with First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge, emphasized how all people of faith — despite their differences — must support each other in fighting prejudice and inequality.
"If we say we love God, but we do not care about our siblings of color who are crying out, we are liars," Whitton said. "Do you love your neighbor as yourself?"