MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Just four days before she was killed in a car jacking, Rev. Autura Eason-Williams had a meeting about stopping gun violence in Memphis.
Rev. Dr. Mark Matheny, board president of United Methodist Neighborhood Centers Memphis, attended the meeting with her. He was one of the last people to see Rev. Eason-Williams alive.
"I know for a fact that she had in her heart, a real heart for the least and the last and the lost, and that is - we need to reach the folks that are most at risk of being killed and those who are most at risk of picking up the gun," Matheny said.
Mathey said Eason-Williams loved the youth, so it's ironic her death is coming from the hands of a 15 and 16-year-old. However, he said that's why the anti-gun violence initiative, Soul Force, is so important.
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UMNC Program Director Iletha Washington was also in the meeting with Eason-Williams and Matheny. She said the reverend's unconditional love for everyone needed her support for Soul Force.
Washington said it didn't take much convincing.
"The work she had done with young people and how she had impacted the community with her ministry I knew, I know she was going to be very excited about this," Washington said.
As a Memphis native living in Whitehaven, Rev. Eason-Williams knew stopping the violence needed an all-hands-on-deck approach.
Washington said Eason-Williams believed the faith community has a mission and a duty to help curb the violence.
"It's not just happening to one particular denomination, we all have to come together and make something happen now ... it affects all of us," Washington said.
Soul Force is still in its beginning stages, but the goal is to partner with other groups, especially with groups that have stepped out and are intentionally working to stop youth gun violence.
Matheny said 17 organizations have stepped up to help move soul force forward, including Youth Villages.
He's calling for all communities to step up.
"We should do everything that we can and do it together. Not competing as different churches or agencies," Matheny said.