Purifoy’s Death Ignites Father’s Call for a Cease Fire at Minister’s Press Conference
Shaquille Purifoy, a 20 year old Grambling University athlete, who was shot and killed Friday night, brought Pensacola’s faith-based, political, and community leadership together to speak out against the continuing violence in the streets. Elder Robert Gross, Shaquille’s father, said, “I do not want retaliation, I do not want revenge, I just want a cease fire”! The father spoke with pride about his son and how he called him and wished him a Happy Father’s Day and promised to be with him on Sunday to celebrate. He never made it! Elder Gross was at the press conference held Monday, June 16th in a packed St. John Divine Missionary Baptist Church auditorium of concerned citizens in a spirit of civic mobilization over Purifoy’s death. Xavier Tyrone Moore was arrested for the murder on Saturday night and charged with homicide, negligent manslaughter, and possession of a weapon.
Escambia County Commission Chairman Lumon May of District 3 who participated in the press conference spoke with the Pensacola Voice and stated that, “This is historic and remarkable. Shaquille Purifoy’s death is a unifying force for the faith-based leadership. I am excited to be involved in pursuing a different direction to stop the violence in our community. I commend the pastors for coming out and declaring that we have got to do something different. We are never going to stop all the violence, but we can curb the violence and change the culture!”
There were citizens standing around the wall of St. John Divine’s auditorium with representatives of the media massed in front of the speaker’s podium. Dr. Joseph Marshall, Pastor of St John Divine said, “We felt we could no longer sit silent on the community deterioration from the crime impacting the lives of our youth and our families. This crime really unified us to the point where from now on we will promote a sustainable change in the hearts and minds of our community.” When asked what are the next steps? He answered, “We did some initial planning and realized we needed to seek out answers and cultivate ideas to develop a strategy. We will come back together again and decide the next steps to sustain this momentum.”
Elder Bernard C. Yates, the national president of the Primitive Baptist Church and Pastor of Zion Hope Primitive Baptist Church stated in a passionate interview that, “Rallies in the parks and marches in the street are great to show our concern, but we have got to get practical and go to the youth where they are and hear what they have to say! I do not want to wait until I get to heaven to find out why the violence continues; I want to find out now!” The residents from Pensacola’s neighborhoods were also fired up to get involved as Ms. Earlene Jones stated, “We have eyes and I have a mouth and I will work my neighborhood to support this effort. I lost my brother forty years ago and nobody ever came forward and the silence has got to stop.” Rev. LuTimothy May, the Pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, summed up the challenge with his statements from the podium saying that young people are dying, and that the skills are in the community to stop the killings. He then ended on a note of passion when he said, “If you give us the resources we will make a difference.”
The true irony of Shaquille’s death lies in the hearts of his father and his friend Josh Womack who on May 22nd at the Greater First Baptist Church in Cantonment celebrated the second birthday of the Cantonment Improvement Committee (CIC). The Master of Ceremony was Elder Robert Gross of Deliverance Tabernacle Church, who made sure his roots in Cantonment were shared with the audience attending the event. Elder Gross spoke of how he loves Cantonment and how proud he is of the CIC.
Chairman Womack closed the event with the comment that, “The biggest need we have in our community is a resource center.” Womack went on to articulate that, “From Nine Mile Road all the way up to Century there is nothing for our kids to do so they have to come to Pensacola.” No one will ever know if government’s response to the CIC’s request for a Cantonment resource center would have changed the deadly events of Friday night, but for Elder Gross and Josh Womack they believe that other lives can be saved if their request is ever granted.