BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Leaders in Kern’s Black community offered reaction Tuesday after a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.

“Thank you God,” exclaimed Pastor Gregory Tatum as he heard the verdict read live on NBC News. Tatum’s daughter, Kristan Dinkins, and 12 year-old-grandson Kai watched as the judge rendered the verdict.

“I think what this verdict shows with this guilty verdict — that finally America gets it. Finally, our voices are being heard,” Tatum said he joined his hands together in prayer.

Dinkins, feeling a sense of optimism, noted how she would have felt if the verdict went the other way.

“I feel like if it was anything aside from what it is, then I was going to feel like the gavel had dropped on hopelessness. But now, I’m starting to feel like a little mustard seed of hope.” That hope, she argued, must come with real, lasting change. A mother of three young Black boys, Dinkins said the Black experience in the United States must improve by the time they become young black men.

“You wake up stressed as a black person,” she said. “People take it as an aggressiveness, but you learn to live with a shell to protection where you already in tuned to what’s going on here, or what’s going on here, or how will they react to me here. And it’s locally. This is a practice. This is an unspoken truth.”

MLK Community Initiative Founder Arleana Waller offered a similar sentiment.

“As a mother to two Black, amazing songs, I should not live in fear that that if law enforcement lvie in fear that could be my last breath,” Waller said.

As for the verdict, Waller added that “every little change is a win. This is a little change, and we will take it.”