GOOD START The Independent News has been reporting on gangs, gun violence and the disparities in education, employment and economic opportunity for years. When we reported on the racial disparities that separate our community and keep us from being a first-class city and county (Independent News, “Black & White,” Feb. 23, 2012), the statistics on poverty, employment, health and incarcerations rates were alarming.
There are no simple solutions or quick fixes. Only coordination of leadership, commitment and effort by the City of Pensacola, Escambia County and Escambia County Public School District and the black and white communities will start swinging the pendulum in the right direction.
Before our paper published “Black & White,” I met with a group of African-American ministers to discuss the statistics. Though they knew the situation in the black neighborhoods was deteriorating, the ministers were shocked to see the numbers in print.
I firmly believe that the answers are in the black community, meaning white do-gooders may have all the right intentions, but without listening to the African-American community those efforts are doomed to failure. And the efforts to gain buy-in must reach beyond the regular players, who tend to take dollars for their efforts, but get little concrete results.
On Monday, August 27, the moderator of the First West Florida Baptist District Association, Rev. Lonnie Wesley III, and the president of the Baptist Minister’s Union of Pensacola, Dr. Tyler Hardeman, issued statements on the escalating gun violence. They delivered their messages in Attucks Court in front of the unit where one of the latest victims of recent gun violence was shot.
“Both Pastor Wesley and I grew up in Pensacola,” said Rev. Hardeman, who grew up in Attucks Court. “We are both from West Pensacola. We know the Westside, and the Westside knows us; but this is not the West Pensacola we grew up with. This is totally unacceptable. We must put an end to this.”
Rev. Wesley, who is also the pastor of Greater Little Rock Baptist Church, talked about the concerns of his congregation. “A mother found a shotgun in her teenage son’s room. She called and asked if she could bring it in. She did. Two young adults came to the church, to my office, just to ask me to take me their guns,” said Wesley. “Now we want a few more to put their guns down, too.”
The ministers asked for a gun buy-back program that worked successfully in 2008 with the help of the Sheriff’s office.
Amen. This is a good start.