Thoughts from the Justice for Joe Rally

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I was honored to be a part of such a stirring support of Mr. Joe tonight. Mr. Joe (Yogesh Sheth), was shot and killed during an attempted robbery at his Mini Market Deli & Grocery store, a mere two blocks from our front door. He worked in Highlandtown for 25 years. He was killed May 1, 2015. The police have given no new information since the first 24 hours of the incident.

His family invited me to share a few words, and here is (mostly) what I said.

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

I want to begin by thanking Ms. Meena Saywack and Teresa from Matthew’s Pizza who invited me to come and share some thoughts with you today.

I know some of you here, but I realize many of you may not know me. My name is Derek Miller and my wife, Kara and I are newer to Highlandtown, having only been here a few years. But we live a mere two blocks from this place, I serve as a neighborhood pastor at Gallery Church Patterson Park and serve on the board of our Highlandtown Community Association.

But today, I am merely a neighbor amongst my other neighbors. In spite of what has happened here and the many challenges we face as neighborhood, Highlandtown has become my home; a place that I love and believe in. I can’t claim to speak for all of us, nor would I even attempt to today. But I will share what I have seen, what I see now, and what I hope for for our community and for Mr. Joe’s family.

Like many of you, I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news of what happened here to Mr. Joe. I was working with other neighbors, still cleaning up and recovering from the aftermath of the looting which took place mere blocks from here. I saw the police helicopter swooping over us and someone received word that there was a shooting on Highland Ave. I immediately ran up to see what had happened, and came across Mr. Harry and Miriam, in the midst of a flurry of police activity and crime tape. I couldn’t process what had happened. So many were in shock. The grief settled in for many of us waves. I still remember how numb I felt in trying to explain to others what had happened, as the concerned crowd grew. We talked and cried and prayed together. I didn’t know what else to do. To this day, I still don’t know what else to do but talk and cry and pray.

In the days that have passed, we have all grieved in our own ways. We have experienced anger, fear, confusion, indignation, and intense pain. This is normal but it is painful, there is no doubt about that.

What keeps me moving forward are showings like that of today. We, in spite of our differences, all have a deep desire for justice to prevail in our neighborhood. We want Highlandtown to be a place where businesses can operate without fear of senseless violence. We want a better story for those who come here from other places to seek their own welfare and the welfare of their community.

So I grieve today, but I have great hope. It is my own belief that God is capable of bringing amazing beauty and life out of the most despicable and ugly situations. That is my prayer and hope for Mr. Joe’s family and friends. It is also my hope for Highlandtown; not only for justice but for peace and prosperity, knowing that they are all linked together. I invite you to continue to work for the welfare of our neighborhood, and to continue to stand in solidarity with those who, like Mr. Joe’s family, have experienced such great loss. There is beauty and hope to be found there, as we share our pain and hope with each other.

We do want justice for Mr. Joe and we continue to implore the police and government officials to exhaust any and every opportunity and resource to bring those who committed this senseless crime to justice. I encourage all of you to sign the ongoing petition, if you haven’t done so already, which urges our police dept and all our representatives to do their jobs and not forget about what we remember every day we walk by this store. In the meantime, I commit myself to being more connected to our local businesses and neighbors. I regret that I did not take enough time to know Mr. Joe as well as so many of you knew him.

I wonder what we could accomplish if we all were able to support one another like this in the future. I wonder what our neighborhood could look like if we all lent the same support as we are showing today in both good times and bad. I commit to doing my best to support you as a long-committed neighbor.

Thank you all for being here, and may there be justice for Joe…

Please consider signing this petition, which will be handed directly to the Police Commissioner.

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