LIMA — James Edward Williamson sees the problems in Lima’s black communities increasing, and he wants to help local people to stop them.
“They can’t sit on their hands and watch all the problems fester and grow as they are,” said the Lima native, who, now living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, came back to speak to the people of Lima about how things used to be in the area and what they need to do to fix how they are now.
“It’s not a vision based on one person, it’s a collective vision,” he said.
Williamson, 66, spoke at the Lima chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Founders Day Dinner Dance and Silent Auction on Saturday, and hoped to leave those in attendance feeling “inspired to be engaged.”
He saw the Lima black community when there were “a lot of people that were very civic-minded and very engaged,” he said.
“I think that’s missing today,” he said. “They don’t have a lot of the community-minded people I grew up with. … They died and nobody picked up the mantle.”
He identified the Lima black community’s problems today as high unemployment rates, poor performance in school, a high dropout rate and high violence.
“We need to come up with solutions,” he said. “It seems like we have almost went backward [from] where we were 30 years ago.”
His presentation was partly a call to action, he said, the theme of the evening was “Where do we go from here?”
About 80 people attended the event, which NAACP chapter president the Rev. Ron Fails said he hopes will become annual.
The chapter chose to feature Williamson at the event because he was “part of the community when it was very vibrant” and is an “accomplished historian,” Fails said.
“We want Lima to become more inclusionary with reference to all our culture,” Fails said. “We fear that if we set back and do nothing, we’ll become the next Ferguson,” Missouri.
The Lima NAACP chapter is working to be proactive instead of reactionary, Fails said.
The way to fix the problems in Lima’s black community is to first do an assessment of what the problems are and the depth of them, Williamson said, and then to take action.