Local Black pastors call for peace in the wake of national protests against police killings of unarmed Blacks
The New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale played host to a Holiday Peace Community Forum which included a wide range of participants representing the faith based community, politicians, law enforcement, legal experts, educators, and students.
By Charles Moseley
Dr. Marcus D. Davidson evoked the memory of “The 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery,” as he addressed a captive audience recently at a “Holiday Peace Community Forum.”
Forty eight years ago, the Edmund Pettus Bridge was the site of a horrific attack on some 600 civil rights demonstrators, traveling from Selma to Montgomery. Former Alabama Governor George Wallace ordered state and local police to stop the march on grounds of public safety. The group was confronted by authorities armed with billy clubs and tear gas in what infamously became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
“Selma, Ala., the site of The Edmund Pettus Bridge where people walked to Montgomery, Alabama because they didn’t have the right to vote. We always complain about racism but we are absent at the polls. I believe this with all of my heart, if we as African Americans learn how to leverage our power in the voting booth, learn how to leverage our economic power, we can turn this nation in any direction we want to turn it.”
“That’s why we’re here; Pastor Hughes, Pastor Green, Bishop Glover and I and all these pastors; we believe in pushing our people to vote, you’ve got to push each other to vote. Because if you want to make a difference we’ve got to put the right people in so when we have issues people stand up for us and our issues. So when we really get tired of racism and all that’s happening in our society we won’t really get tired until we’re willing to do in Selma, Alabama going across that bridge. Blood flowing that’s what it means to turn things around. When we get sick and tired of being sick and tired, our votes will make a difference in our society and put the right people in, to make a difference.”
In the wake of several high profile cases involving the killing of unarmed Black males by white police officers, protests have grown in cities across America and internationally; placing America squarely in the worldwide court of public opinion.
South Florida has not been immune nor escaped from being included in such protests. Public outcry has yielded more questions than answers throughout Black America. Recent police killings have generated calls for justice from the White House to street corners, prompting serious conversations on the polarizing subject of racism in America.
Recently, several pastors representing Broward County’s faith based community called for an open dialogue to discuss the issues on the minds of many Black Americans.
Dr. Marcus D. Davidson, Senior Pastor of New Mount Olive Baptist Church, Bishop Clarence Glover, Senior Pastor of Mount Bethel Ministries, Rev. Dr. Derrick Hughes, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Piney Grove, and Rev. Dr. Henry Green, Senior Pastor of Mount Hermon AME Church, spear-headed, “A Holiday Peace Forum” Dec. 17 at New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale.
Charles Morton, Former Broward County Chief Assist-ant Prosecuting Attorney having tried thousands of felony cases over his 36 year career, many of them murder cases, began the panel discussion by outlining why he felt the process was flawed as to how we determine whether someone should be indicted or not in these types of cases.
Morton concluded that the investigative aspects, not the legal aspects, were most important regarding how cases are brought before a grand jury.
Morton called for changes in the judicial procedure in murder cases, citing the recent developments in the State of Wisconsin where laws were enacted mandating that such investations be conducted by an independent party.
“There needs to be independence of investigation regarding the manner in which a decision to prosecute or not. I hope this is the direction we take here in Florida.”
Tracy Martin, the father of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, set the tone for the evening with an impassioned message before a nearly capacity crowd at New Mount Olive Baptist Church.
“My son’s death was a traumatic ordeal. There is no compensation that can make up for the loss of a child. Some-one has to go to sleep every night wondering how they could prevent the death of their child. I’ve come to believe that it was God’s will. It was a very untimely death but I couldn’t prevent it.”
“What do I do to try to prevent others from having to bury their child? I have to educate other nationalities on how they view our children,” Martin added.
Verna Williams is a single mother with two sons ages 15 and 25. She spoke about her struggles in raising her sons in today’s society.
“We had Tracy Martin speak and not one time did he say his child was shot down because he was Black. I have good boys but tell me how I tell my son not to be scared to walk the streets because he’s Black? That is the problem.”
“It’s a race issue. My son is Black and he could be shot dead just because he is Black. How do I teach him not to be Black? He’s Black! I feel we just have to be honest, and say this is a race issue,” added Williams.
Panelist Saif Ishoof is the Executive Director, City Year Miami, an affiliate of Ameri-Corps, a job training and social development organization. He made several observations.
“If we really want to have a breakthrough as a nation, not only do we need to expose our young people in African Ameri-can communities to the tragic realities of social injustice but we need to be taking children who come from privileged back-grounds and provide them an opportunity, exposing them to the grosser side of things like white privilege and having them open their eyes through a true servant leadership model, not a colonial model of what is happening in our communities around our country. “
The panel raised questions on race, class, and the cultural differences in America. Panelist Robert Runcie, Superintendent of Broward County Public Schools outlined how these factors play a role in how people perceive and interact with each other.
“Part of the challenge that we have today is beyond race, a lot of it becomes about class becomes about where we live and how fragmented we’ve become. And we need to think how we define our communities so no matter where we are geographically that spiritually goal wise we’re connected the same way. We can’t just be looking out for ourselves. We should be looking out for the entire community.”
Alton Bolden, principal, Piney Grove Boys Academy also weighed in on the importance of the family structure by giving his take on raising Black boys.
“Now these days most parents cradle their daughters but let our boys raise themselves. But when we get down to it we need to treat our boys like we treat our daughters. We need to know who they’re talking to. The man should be the foundation of the home. The way we get to our kids is to meet them where they are.”
Senator Chris Smith put things in perspective by admonishing the community to move forward by taking several steps in finding some solutions to the issues and concerns expressed by the community.
“We love a rah, rah speech. It should be all about discussing solutions right now. One thing we need to do is start reporting when things happen to you. The worse thing is when you complain about an officer and say,” this officer did this” but there is not one complaint. When they look in his file all they see are commendations.
“They will say, he did this, he did that but nobody files a complaint. Go down there and file a complaint. Go to a city hall commission meeting sometime. I get so, so lonely in meetings sometimes. I’m the only one who looks like me bringing up issues, when nobody bothers to come to the meeting. Go to city com-mission and county commission meetings. Get involved. Lastly, continue to vote.”