“Too many of our young people are dying,” said Rev. Tyler Hardeman, president of the Baptist Ministers Union. “Our eyes are not closed. Our ears are open to hear the concerns of the citizens of this county.”
The group of ministers made their statement in front of a small audience, which included Mayor Ashton Hayward and Police Chief Chip Simmons, at the First West Florida Baptist Center on Strong Street. The collective was responding to the area’s growing gun violence.
“I grew up in Attucks Court over 35 years ago and that’s not the Attucks Court I grew up in,” Hardeman said. “There’s some good people still living in the vicinity of Attucks Court and I don’t want them to feel victimized by the negligence of others.”
Pastor Bernard Yates, who serves locally at Primitive Zion Baptist Church and is also the president of the National Primitive Baptist Convention, said that the local community needed to tend to the problem. He said that the African-American church communities needed to be a part of that effort.
“We’re not just going to leave this to the law enforcement agencies of our city and county,” Yates said, emphasizing the personal stake the community had in the issue. “Their funerals and their caskets come to our churches. They’re our kids and grandkids.”
The pastor of First Baptist Church in Warrington, Dr. James Miller, spent the last 10 of his 34 years in law enforcement serving as chief of police in Foley, Ala.
“We saw the problem then,” Miller said. “We didn’t see it coming in this magnitude, but nevertheless we are here.”
The pastor tied the area’s violence to the prevalence of guns.
“The problem is too many young people have weapons, they don’t know how to handle weapons. They’re making bad decisions and their bad decisions result in the loss of life,” Miller said, later adding, “Back when we would fight, it was fist-on-fist, and we got it out, we got through with it.”
Lonnie Wesley is the one who organized the meeting. The pastor of Greater Little Rock Baptist Church, said that the ministers hoped to be “the voice of safety, the voice of reason,” and that the group hoped to work with local law enforcement officials in the effort.
“The number of citizens afraid to sit on their porch is growing,” Wesley said. “No one can do it alone, but together we can do it.”
Police Chief Simmons said he was glad the group wanted to help. He had held his own press conference earlier in the summer, announcing increased patrols in response to drive-by shootings.
“I think that is a powerful voice, powerful force,” Simmons said.
After the ministers made their statement and walked off the small stage at the front of the room, Hardeman stepped to the side and stood near a red drum set. He said he didn’t know what the next step should be, but that the group wanted to be involved.
“It’s easy to pray about the situation, it’s easy to talk about the situation,” Hardeman said, “but there comes a time when we have to put some legs on our prayers and walk the walk.”
Emerging Young Leaders Graduate A Pensacola chapter of a sorority graduated on August 26 its first class of Emerging Young Leaders, which is a program for middle school girls that encourages leadership and educational achievement.
Emerging Young Leaders (EYL) is a 2010-2014 global signature program of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Delta Iota Omega Chapter of Pensacola. The sorority launched its EYL program during the summer of 2011. According to president of the chapter Gloria Clay, more than 8,000 young women participate in the EYL program.
Dressed in pink caps and gowns, the graduates accepted their diplomas and made speeches about their achievements in the Washington High School cafeteria. The program consists of 27 girls, seven of which graduated the program because they completed the eighth grade.
Charmere Gatson and Sheree Triplett-Roberts, co-chairs of the EYL program, presented the girls with their diplomas and special awards including “most spirited” and honor roll achievements.
“Sheree and I are a team working hard together to reach the lives of these young ladies and to inspire and motivate them to reach for the stars,” Gatson said. “I am proud to instill the knowledge and teach the skills to these girls at such a young age. EYL is just the launching pad for what’s to come.”
LaKirstan Hooks, EYL graduate and incoming freshman at West Florida High School, praised the program
“EYL is something all young ladies should be a part of,” she said. “It helps and teaches the meaning of what it takes to mature into being the best young lady that you can possibly be through guidance and mentoring.”
During the fall of 2011, girls in the EYL program participated in workshops that focused on health, public speaking and communications, self-esteem and good study skills. The girls had an opportunity to spend time with their sorority mentors.
They volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House and participated in local charity walks together. Kendall Boyce, a seventh grader at Pensacola Christian Academy, said that giving back to the community and being active around Pensacola is an important part of the EYL program.
“It makes me feel good to be with a group that helps others,” she said.
China Dixon, 9th grader at Pensacola High School and winner of the program’s “Journalist Award,” explained the importance of the EYL program in her speech at the graduation.
“Today is a momentous occasion to be remembered for a lifetime,“ she said. “As we take what we learn in EYL and put it into practice, hopefully we can inspire our future EYL members to continue to grow and learn.”