In the wake of the Dallas shooting, the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the protest that have broken out across the country Bishop T.D. Jakes is opening the conversation for a national dialogue about these events and the tensions surrounding them, with the hopes of bringing reconciliation and healing.
The pastor of The Potter's House moderated a special "Conversation with America" town hall Sunday service.
The event addressed "the fear and hurt Americans are experiencing on both sides of the recent tragedies." It hoped to "offer encouragement and tools on reconciling and moving forward," said T.D. Jakes Ministries in a statement.
During the opening of the special service, Bishop Jakes shared with attendees that bridging the gap starts with seeing that there is no side.
"I don't want to be on this side or that side. I just want to stand for what is right," said Jakes.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and state Senator Royce West were among some of the speaker for Sunday's town hall meeting.
Rawlings told the congregation that race is not the only issue behind the divisiveness in the country.
"Yes, it is about race, but underlying that is the economic disparity and the education disparity," said Rawlings. "The medicine we are taking right now is separatism and that is not going to work."
Officer Steven Gentry saw his colleague's face blown off in the Dallas shooting and he says it isn't that image that keeps him up at night, but rather it's the turmoil that is going on in the nation.
"Its been a lot of blame on both sides and I hate it. It keeps me up at night," said Gentry.
As event unfolded Friday night, 25-year-old Mark Hughes was at the rally in Dallas openly carrying a rifle. He wanted to walk around with it because he'd seen white men at other rallies openly carrying their weapons with no issue. However, as soon as shots rang out during the event, Hughes was wrongly presumed to be the shooter. Authorities now know that Micah X. Johnson was the shooter.
Hughes received death threats after the Dallas Police Department tweeted his picture. He was a wanted man and was angry, hurt because he wasn't breaking the law.
"It was a peaceful protest that I wanted to attend that turned out to be a nightmare. I didn't know if I was going to make it home to see my kids," said Hughes.
The mother of Alton Sterling, Saundra Sterling, Quineyetta McMillion, mother of Alton Sterling's son, Lavish "Diamond" Reynolds, the girlfriend of the late Philando Castile were among a group of panelist invited to speak at the service.
"It's hard. I haven't slept or ate since he passed. It's hard," expressed Sterling.
Reynolds recalled the night she and Philando were stopped by the police officer.
"We were just out to have family night," said Sterling.
When asked when she realized this stop was different, she told the congregation when she recognized that the officer was scared.
"I heard it in his voice," recounted Sterling. "We should have never taken that route."
Reynolds said she has been trying to be strong and her 6-year--old daughter who witnessed the event has not shed a tear.
"She hasn't cried. She keeps telling me it's going to be okay."
Jakes took that moment to speak to the church about the importance of talking to bring reconciliation and healing.
"A lot of times when we cover up our pain, anger is the anesthesia. Sometimes we really need to talk to someone," Jakes said.