RICHMOND, Va. – A Central Virginia photographer is organizing a community event in Richmond’s Byrd Park Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. after the Dallas tragedy and two other fatal officer-involved shootings earlier this week.
Photographer Connie McGowan said she was so overcome with the news of the Dallas officers ambushed that she had to take action.
She shared her grief on social media at 3 a.m. Friday when she posted her vision to bring people together.
"When this idea dropped in my spirit yesterday I doubted my ability to do what I was thinking because I'm just a photographer and event planner but I have to do something and now! Then God reminded me of how he has crafted me to connect with people and given me the ability to bring people together. Then immediately I thought of Jeremiah 1:1-10. So I know God is with us and He is sending the right people and making the path clear of obstacles, negativity and unrest! He is bringing peace, unity, cooperation and lighting fires under people to not just talk about it but take action toward it by doing what he has already instilled in us," she posted on Facebook.
"You don't fight violence with violence! You support community and love on them in a time of need, you educate, mentor and lead by example to show our young men and women on what to do when faced with situations that can escalate. You set aside your differences, calm your spirit, clear you mind and tap into what God has given you in the form of your gifts and talents. You get on your knees and pray for direction and guidance to do what is needed to be a part of the solution and not the problem. You pay it forward by being a blessing to others and giving without expectancy. You support your community small businesses. You come together and UNITE as one force that will be hard to reckon with when you are on one accord! WE bring unity back to the community by capturing, collaboration and creating awareness that WE ARE FAMILY! It's up to US!"
“Really showcase that we are not a community divided,” McGowan said. “We are a community actually unified.”
McGowan was overwhelmed with responses on social media as volunteers are pledged food, drink and monetary donations.
She is inviting Richmonders from all walks of life to Sunday's RVA Community Unity Shoot Out. (Named so because of the photography connection.)
“It is a family-friendly fun day. It's an RVA family affair. Hugs and kisses and people loving on each other, and really, really supporting each other, that's what I see," she said.
Volunteer: Be there for one another
Samantha Thompson was so inspired by McGowan's idea that she decided to volunteer.
She said the event means being there for one another as a community.
"It doesn't matter your race. It doesn't matter your background. It doesn't matter," Thompson said.
Another unique angle to the event is McGowan said more than 100 photographers have pledged to volunteer their time to document the event.
How You Can Help
McGowan said she still needs a few supplies to make the event happen.
“We definitely need some tents, some water. We need water trucks or ice,” McGowan said. “We need donations, [like] hot dogs or hamburgers so it's free and plenty of water.”
This labor of love is something she hopes will make a positive impact on in this community.
“I think it can bring hope, I think it can bring promise [and] I think it can bring action,” she said.