LIMA — There is agreement from many African-American leaders around Lima that as a whole, black people are trapped into a lower standard of living than their Caucasian counterparts.
Some point to a need for more leaders to emerge from the community. However, opinions vary on the solutions for finding leaders. Fingers get pointed toward blacks being trapped into an endless circle of poverty; a buddy system among whites; and the lack of leadership in the community.
Derry Glenn has struggled with this issue for years as the longest tenured councilor on Lima City Council. He said it is not an easy fix, and puts much of the blame on a hard-to-break cycle of poverty.
“Younger blacks are not getting the opportunities that younger whites get,” Glenn said. “Many blacks see the odds stacked against them. It is hard to get away from.”
Glenn said without opportunities, many quit trying. Without the opportunity, many blacks are only able to land jobs through temporary service agencies. The lower incomes lead to another generation of poverty and broken homes. Many homes end up being one-parent households where a child doesn’t have someone to help him with his homework or keep him out of trouble. The tough cycle results in another generation of poverty.”
Glenn feels there is a buddy system that leads to better opportunities for young whites than young blacks. However, he said some of the blame can be found in the mirror. He said, slowly but surely, blacks in Lima can move one peg at a time and improve their lot. Slowly, he said, this would lead to more blacks being successful, which would in turn lead to more black leaders to help aid the next generation, and so on.
“They are stuck and they are banging their heads against the wall,” Glenn said. “You are going to continue doing it until someone persuades you not to do it.”
“Someone has to break the cycle,” Glenn said. “I was very fortunate to have a father who stuck it out. He would tell me, ‘You can do it Derry.’”
The Rev. Lamont Monford, pastor at Philippian Missionary Baptist Church, said the feeling of a lack of opportunity is causing many of the more promising black youths to graduate and leave the area. One such youth in Lima that looks to have a promising future proves that statement.
Chase Little-Battle, 16, has been fortunate to grow up in a good home and has broken through some of the perceived obstacles. He attends Lima Central Catholic High School, plays soccer, is involved with Encore Theatre and is an A/B student. It is his wish to be an airplane pilot, and he plans on taking his talents out of Lima.
“I have lived in North Carolina and Philadelphia,” Little-Battle said. “There are not too many things to do here compared to other places. I think I will have better opportunity somewhere else.”
Little-Battle still had hope for the city however.
“Change is a big change,” he said. “People need to open their eyes a little. People are stubborn and unwilling to change.”
Vicki Shurelds said the Mizpah Community Center works hard with its mentoring programs to help black leaders emerge and to stay in the community. She said encourage for such programs would help.
“We do not nurture African-American leadership enough,” Shurelds said. “We need to teach them that they can exist in positions that make things happen.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at Twitter@LanceMihm