Columnist: Unity March picks up traction in LaGrange
The recent Living in Peace (LIP) Unity March this past weekend has developed traction in LaGrange among community stakeholders. Stakeholders in the LIP march participated for a variety of reasons. It was not a large march, but it was attended by whites and blacks from the community. One attendee’s nephew was recently killed in Atlanta. He believed it was due to gangs or violence associated with drugs. Although he was still grieving the loss, participating in the march was his way of honoring his nephew. Another woman brought her two daughters, hoping that she would understand the importance of staying out of gangs and to do well in school in order to be successful in the future. Participants braved the hot and humid weather and stayed to the end, where several leaders spoke of unity and racial reconciliation. March organizers thanked the participants and ensured them that there would be follow-up activities designed to empower the community to respond in unity, rather than divisiveness in a potential crisis, which we typically see happening in cities around the country. Former legislator and current minister Carl Von Epps urged participants to remain involved in being a part of the solution to ensure continued progress in race relations. Another elected legislator seemed to echo the same message – to create an even better LaGrange where all residents are respected. For anyone who was not certain that LaGrange was serious about race relations, a housing authority official was a kind of cheerleader whose message excited the marchers. She was adamant about the importance of whites and blacks coming together to make a difference in the community. She even encouraged participants by ensuring them that the office of the mayor is genuinely interested in promoting better race relations in the city. For those who were nonbelievers, she encouraged them to visit the mayor and judge for themselves his concern and support of a LaGrange that is inclusive of the opinions of all of its residents. Pursuant to the above, LaGrange is off to a good start in promoting positive race relations. No one knows when a crisis can take place in a community. It just happens. It is encouraging to know that LaGrange, in establishing a racial reconciliation team, made up of a broad cross-section of the community, has probably reduced the opportunity of a potential black/white confrontation being perceived as a systemic problem that is representative of the culture or climate of the city. It can actually happen, whether it is a city or business. Several years ago, I provided cultural diversity training for an airline that merged with another major Atlanta airline. Management seemed to have had blinders on in not recognizing a racial crisis in the company that was metastasizing from within. It literally destroyed the company, resulting in a merger. For a number of years, in fact, I witnessed a number of communities torn apart because of racial divisiveness while serving as a consultant for the Governor’s Human Relations Commission under Joy Berry. Everyone has a role and responsibility in ensuring a stable and better America. By working together, we can successfully fight foreign or external forces which seek to destroy our great country. In fact, beginning in September, I will partner with a motley crew of professionals, which will include former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Oliver Halle – known for taking down Philadelphia mob bosses – to provide cultural diversity training designed to foster a culture of inclusiveness to businesses and communities across the country. You too can contribute to a better country. Can we deal you in? Contributing columnist Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.