Rev Palmer was made a Peacemaker – which is part of the United Nations – in 2003 as a result of her work in St Paul’s. She was made an ambassador for peace in 2006 and in 2018 Rev P presented the very first show on Ujima Radio and we are incredibly proud to welcome her back every Monday 12-2pm for Soul Health & Wellness.
Back in 2002, Reverend Dr Dawnecia Palmer AFP OBA was on a plane coming back from France when she saw a headline on a newspaper saying Bristol was the worst city in Europe for drugs and gun crime.
Crime at that time was at an all-time high in St Paul’s, she said, adding that it then started to move to different areas but, back then, that was the main area. “It was a supermarket for drugs,” she said. “At the time, it was horrible. I thought ‘I am part of a city that has crime and what are our churches doing?’ “I made it my job to go down down there and it felt ‘this isn’t real’. There was a guy at every corner selling drugs openly.
“There was also knife crime, shoot-outs and street sex work. We went down at night time just to see what was going on.”
Rev Palmer said that she did a seven-day fast to help her focus on the needs of the area, which is when she decided to stand with the people involved and offer love. Once those conversations started, she realised there was a reason they were there, she continued.
A common one was not having the immigration documents to be able to work in the UK so they felt the only way they could make money was to sell drugs. Other people had been victims of abuse or neglect, she said, adding some young men didn’t have a father figure and had joined a gang because they were alone while their mum was at work.
“They were telling us ‘why didn’t you come here before?’,” she said. “We didn’t want them to go away, we wanted to see some change. Each of these people is someone’s body, it’s a parent’s son.
“We would start just by being friendly and meeting them where they are, but seeing that is not who they are – underneath is a person who is a victim of their circumstances. They started to feel they could be vulnerable with us.
“They were telling us their personal stories, you hear it and it is no longer a secret. I was around to listen and ask questions.”
The mum-of-four said they had two rules – to involve no money and no religion – as they were there out of their desire to see change, which help them build trust. Not talking about religion meant they could talk to to different groups as well.
Towards the end of 2002, a conflict was brewing between two gangs and they heard there was going to be a shoot-out. She said what they did was getting people to go out on the streets – including grandparents – as they wouldn’t harm them.
“When I first shared my idea with then Commander, he laughed at the idea of me creating a team to patrol the streets to combat the gun drug and violent crimes. Around the same time they had a tip off that a massive shoot was going down. I told him I prayed and they wouldn’t have a shoot out. Again he laughed.
“But when there wasn’t a shoot out. He invited me to come back and share my ideas further. He listened intently, and took me seriously. He also agreed to support our work and gave us our first set of High Viz jackets. And that was how Prayer Patrols came about.”
Rev Palmer was made a Peacemaker – which is part of the United Nations – in 2003 as a result of her work in St Paul’s. She was made an ambassador for peace in 2006.
With the scheme being such a success, the Prayer Patrol then started to go all over the country and abroad. They have been to the US, Jamaica, Gaza and Israel, among others.
The 64-year-old said that, when they trained people, they would offer some rigorous training around what can and can’t be done, giving the example that someone who is antagonistic shouldn’t be approached.
“We had the dawn patrol, where you would see the people bringing it in, who had white skin and good cars,” she said. “They would come in before 6am.
“In the morning, people were going to work and that’s when they would be targeted to sell drugs.
“One of the most dangerous times was lunchtime, when they would start targeting children with bikes [to sell drugs for them]. That was awful and it really touched my heart.
“We would always be there. When the police were out, we would not be out there so that’s what we did, we wore them down.”
She said that drug-dealing is also about status so they were trying to make people see they had leadership and business skills that could be used elsewhere. “We would say ‘you do not have to use them in crime’, it was about helping them see that way,” she continued.
“Maybe it made them feel there was an importance to their lives without the need to take or sell drugs, that their life is valuable.
“Shaming people isn’t going to help them, I say to them ‘I know you are valuable’. Some people would begin to cry when you started talking to them.
“We caused them to have a different vision. It is about valuing your life as much as others.
“You are trying to relate that you care about them.”
Rev Palmer, whose family moved to Bristol from the Caribbean when she was two, grew up in Ashton, with her dad working as an architect and her mum as a ward sister. She has lived in Bristol all her life and, since 2010, she has been splitting her time between Bristol and the US.
She became a reverend at the age of 28 and was the first Black female pastor in Bristol. These days, she is part of the Global Spiritual Community Portal, which welcomes people of any faiths. Over the years, she has been involved in different churches including Pentecostal, New Testament, Church of England and Protestant.
Rev Palmer said that the group also spoke with people with alcohol problems, working with homeless shelters in the area. They started working with youth groups to give people something to do.
She remembers an incident where they saw a man running down Ashley Road with a machete. She said that the other woman she was out with from the Prayer Patrol just grabbed him from behind and, holding on to him, started to weep. Rev Palmer then quickly held his hand to take the machete.
“He said ‘look what you have done, you messed up good’, she continued. “We just kept praying and talking with him, telling him he didn’t need to kill that man.
“He had just come out of prison and he was ready to go back in. We stopped him so, for me, that was a good day.”
Rev Palmer said that, as a result of their work, Bristol’s image started to change. Rev Palmer described their work as “numberless”, adding for them it is about the impact they have on communities.
“Everywhere we can put a word, we are effective,” she continued. “The fact that the people who were on the street are no longer there, the fact that it stopped the drugs coming in from Jamaica and the other islands shows we got to the root of it.
“I feel like things have advanced a lot, there is a lot more listening going on now. It is a different mindset and I am very happy to see the changes. I feel hopeful for the future.
“I do not know why I am called to do it. For me, it is about being somebody that could create a change and make a difference.” Rev Palmer said that one of her big concerns these days is around missing young people and County Lines drugs networks. She also said that the lockdowns caused a lot of mental health problems and that she worries about how that is going to show.
Rev Palmer is now campaigning to try to have a ‘World Awareness Day’ on Friday, March 18, to celebrate that every life is precious and valuable.
She said: “People get put in boxes and the whole idea behind the awareness day would be to have a day where we just appreciate life.”
Rev P is a New Thought Practitioner, she studied Metaphysics in America, got a Doctorate in Wellness & Wellbeing.
Rev P has written a book called:
Dawnecia Palmer aka Lady Dawnecia Palmer started writing at the tender age of five. In 2015 following a major heart surgery, she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue. A time she calls ‘my days of gross darkness and despair.’ In an effort to help her cope, she developed and created a system of opposites, using thoughts, words, feeling, and pictures, a principle she named Wellnessology. After 30 consecutive days of using the principle, she said, “I began to thrive, beam, and even soar on what seem to me ‘clouds of hope and delight.”
She still uses ‘the principle’ today, and continues to thrive beyond her diagnosis, citing Wellnessology as a lifestyle.
Over the years the principle has further developed, evaluated, and proven to be helpful for hundreds of people, in various parts of the world. Building on this work, Wellnessology soon became an alternative healing modality, and is today one of the foundational teaching modules for a leading Alternative University based in the UK.
Lady Palmer is an inspirational writer, certified health and wellness practitioner, a pioneer in the art of Breathology, and Breathomics.™ She is also a global spiritual leader/teacher, public speaker, serial entrepreneur, and philanthropist.
Dawnecia is passionate about preserving nature and the planet, standing up for justice, fairness, and equity for all people. She mainly resides in the UK.
Make sure you tune in every Monday 12-2pm to hear Rev P live on Ujima Radio with Soul Health & Wellness. You can text or Whatsapp any questions or comments on: 07960240198