Burgers were being flipped, hot dogs were on the grill, but a community gathering this past weekend in the heart of Pauls Valley was not just a regular picnic.
Unity was even in the name as the casual United in the Valley event Saturday afternoon was meant to show that skin color and race didn’t divide but instead brought the community together.
Prayer and fellowship was the theme of the local gathering in Wacker Park as a response to the movement sweeping the country calling for racial equality for all.
When asked what the event meant to her, Pauls Valley’s mayor, Jocelyn Rushing, an African American, simply showed a T-shirt with the words “Human and Kind” right on the front.
“When I think about this it’s not about color,” Rushing said during the picnic-style gathering.
“We all have something in common and it’s not color. We’re all connected by blood.
“We needed to come together and show we’re united.”
As small groups of people slowly came together in the local park a number of Pauls Valley pastors also joined in with messages of unity and love.
Among them was Andy Davidson, pastor of Valley Life Church. He and church member Justen Robinson were behind the idea that led to the June 27 event.
“We’re here for prayer,” Davidson said. “Prayer changes things. We believe in the power of prayer.
“I pray there will be unity here in Pauls Valley. We can share a unified event. We recognize we don’t have to be divided. We can be together.
“No there’s no real agenda here. We’re just here to have fun. Enjoy the unity that we have.”
Davidson also read a statement provided by Pauls Valley’s assistant police chief, Derrick Jolley.
“All conversation is on the table. We’re all in this together,” Jolley said in his written message.
Another local pastor, Bruce Ford, offered a brief message of love in his prayer during the event.
“Help us to love one another,” Ford said.
Among the other pastors stepping up was Damon Brown.
“I was thinking about something similar before I heard about this,” Brown said, referring to the United in the Valley.
“I wanted to do something so the community could come out and show support for law enforcement.”