Photos by: Kenneth Armstrong
Article by: Charlotte Smith
Activity in Elizabethtown at the Town Hall hosted by Mt. Zion AME Zion Church Thursday evening was another successful step to improving relationships in Bladen County. The community event was emceed by Pastor Edwin Ferguson.
Ferguson had a panel of speakers: Rev. Pia Jessup, Rev. Larry Hayes, Rev. Louie Boykin, Bladen County Assistant District Attorney Quintin McGee, Highway Patrol Sargent Daniel Hilburn, Bladen County School Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor, Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker and Chief Deputy Larry Guyton.
Ferguson opened with a prayer and then said, “Racism and prejudice is a problem in our nation and we want to attack the problem, not the people.”
According to dictionary.com, racism means: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others, a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination, and hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
According to the same website, prejudice means: an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason or unreasonable feelings, opinions, and attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group, and any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.
The intended topic according to Ferguson’s announcements leading up to the event was to discuss improving relationships between one another as well as improving the relationships between law enforcement and the African – American community.
Law enforcement officials answered some questions about proper protocol and policies and procedures they have in place. They also assured the public new systems have been put in place with the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s office and the Elizabethtown Police Department to have check’s and balances to keep our law and justice systems fair, balanced and protecting the people.
Citizens gave examples of how they feel they have been discriminated against. Sgt. Hilburn addressed some of the concerns. He suggested to those in attendance to keep a record of issues regarding law enforcement and take them to the law enforcement agency where the officers are from to hold the officers accountable.
McGee, from the Bladen County District Attorney’s office, also suggested taking complaints to the District Attorney’s office saying we are here to help the citizens.
Citizens asked why there is not more diversity in the law enforcement fields. Some of the law officers informed the crowd the issue is minority applicants are rare, even though law enforcement divisions try to recruit minority citizens, and they are currently hiring.
Rev. Boykin offered his insight by saying, “As a little child, we are taught that the policeman is our enemy and maybe we haven’t realized that, so very few African American’s grow up wanting to be a policeman. So that could contribute to the reason we don’t have the applicants.”
Another topic discussed by many was about racism being in our communities.
Dr. Taylor explained that obliviously yes, we have racism, but it isn’t as in your face as it once was and we need to start with self examination to end racism.
Rev. Boykin said, “We have identified the enemy before us, and now we have got to kill it. We have identified him as racism and we need to kill it with education, love and by appreciating each other.”
Rev. Jessup suggested to start with the church leadership. She said, “We need to check our egos at the door.”
Rev. Dr. Chris Denny, an audience member, shared a quote he said he strives to live by, “You are a child of God and I will treat you that way.”
The event closed with better understanding and success.