His words came near the end of a recent press conference on street violence. Some may have missed the significance of them, but they voiced sentiments that have been festering in the African-American community for years.
Pastor Lonnie D. Wesley, III of Greater Little Rock Baptist Church urged the community to vote against an upcoming referendum to extend the Local Option Sales Tax for capital improvement for the school district for another decade.
“Vote against it,” said Rev. Wesley. “It’s helping the problem, not our community.”
The pastor was referring to the disproportionate number of schools in black neighborhoods that have been closed since the last LOST referendum passed and how those neighborhoods have deteriorated since.
And more may be on the chopping block. Montclair Elementary, Lincoln Park Elementary and O.J. Semmes Elementary are rumored to be up for closure once the LOST referendum passes.
The LOST is important to builders, road contractors, engineers and architects. The city, county and school district have come to depend on those funds for capital improvements and equipment. For the building and road construction industries, LOST is financial security. And for politicians, LOST is power and the key to future campaign contributions.
The black ministers don’t care about any of that. They see how the school district’s abandonment of the black neighborhoods has hurt families and businesses. Property values decline and crime goes up.
Many of the men behind the LOST referendum, which is being held three years before the current one expires, could careless about the black minister’s words. Their rationale is African-Americans don’t vote in numbers in mid-term elections. They believe that they can win without one black “yes” vote being cast.
So what if more schools are closed in the black community? That only means they can profit from building new ones elsewhere.
These men cannot fathom a world where whites might agree with the ministers, where whites might also think it’s wrong to close schools in the black neighborhoods and warehouse them elsewhere, and where whites might believe that hurting any part of community damages the soul of the entire community.
Money, power and influence are on the side of those who support the LOST referendum. They have already raised tons of money to make sure it passes.
All that the ministers have on their side of the ledger is people. Last time I checked, people still are the ones who cast votes. I would recommend listening to them, but that’s just me.