I am reminded of a saying I try to live by, “Don’t tell someone to get over it, help them get through it.”
As I take this risk in writing this op-ed piece, I want to be conscious of this saying.
Lima and Allen County, like many communities, are at a point that if we use this time right, we can bring about real transformational and sustainable change in our community, and at the same time, begin to make real change on the impact of poor race relations. The risk I take is to say Lima’s African-American Community should be using this time of social awareness and new hope toward working for real visionary change in our community. For us to miss this opportunity to make the type of real change needed will cost the loss of another generation of young minorities in the Lima Community, particularly young Black males.
We in the Black community must take responsibility to come forward with bold visionary steps that will make the kind of sustainable change to not only move the Black community forward with young, talented, educated leaders, but will also help move the whole community forward. We can have the discussions around the needed police reform and the pros and cons of body cameras, but to have these two discussions be the only items that continuously come from our community is doing a disservice to the generation after generation of young Blacks that are choosing to not stay in Lima, or worse, become another one of the failing statistics that are impacting too many of our most talented and gifted resources — young Black males.
As someone that has been pulled over numerous times, and arrested for having to many speeding tickets, I understand the need for dialogue on police reform. But I say now is the time that we in the Black community work together as one in Lima accept some ownership and work to make the changes needed in our community. Talking defunding law enforcement, forming citizen review task force to putting body cameras on law enforcement, will not deal with the real issues impacting the Black community. Understand the real problem is the perception of inferiority or superiority based on race that people, a lot of time people in positions of power, have on the Black community and mostly Black males.
Look at the recent crimes in the Black communities in Chicago, Atlanta, and Columbus. Over Memorial Day weekend 18 Blacks killed, two of them teenage college girls. Black lives being lost by the dozens every weekend many of them young kids across the country. These cities have body cameras, and even a fair share of minority police officers and it has not made the type of change that is needed in the Black community.
Recent published data for Ohio showed that attempted suicide by Black teenagers over the last two years was at 16 percent compared to just 4 percent for white teenagers. This continued crime and overall lack of self-worth should have everyone marching down the streets demanding real reform. The senseless continued rise in Black-on-Black crime, the lost of generation after generation of young people to high school drop-outs and prison, has more to do with how people view “us” and even to a large extent how we view each other.
Over the years I have gotten to know the last few police chiefs in Lima. I can remember Chief Davenport sitting me down and telling me what he expects from me — not as a Nursing Home operator — but as a person of color. Chief Davenport said to me, “I want you to take my spot on the United Way Board and make a difference.” I later became board president and Campaign Chair. The chief saw something in me that I am not sure I saw in me. Years later I was selected to be a participant in the very first Allen-Lima Leadership (ALL) program. Being the youngest member, it was intimidating at the time. My assigned roommate during an overnight stay was then Lima Police Chief Greg Garlock. It ended up a good time. The chief was a “cool” dude that made me feel welcome. We remain good friends still. I have since had the pleasure of having many interactions and meetings with the current Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin. I can say with a strong conviction Chief Martin is just a great person that will have a discussion with anyone. He takes the position of how we can work together.
As the country and communities like Lima look to make the needed reforms in a collaborative effort with law enforcement, let’s also use this transformation period in our community to improve the education statistics of African-American students.
Let’s demand better outcomes for African-American students, particularly Black male students, and push for improvements in high school test scores and graduation rates.
Let’s take this opportunity to make sure young minorities in Lima have an opportunity to develop skill trade career certificates.
Let’s work to improve home ownership in the Black community with fair lending practices, but more important economic growth opportunities.
Let’s work to continue placing young talented Blacks on local boards.
Let’s work on continuing to provide funds to the William Davenport Scholarship at Apollo Career Center for blacks wanting to join the Lima Police Department.
Let us use this time to take self-responsibilities and ownership to make the kind of economic change that move the Lima Black community forward as an equal partner in the growing success of Lima.
Let us help our talented young Blacks to stay in Lima and become teachers, college professors, electricians, and pipefitters.
Let us use this time in the Black community to not be perceived as “crime victims,” but more importantly for us in the black community, to not view ourselves as a crime victim mentality.
Let’s show the community all the wonderful young black talent we have and work together to ensure their success as they become part of a generation of Lima Leaders, Economic Developers and Educators, so when they take their rightful deserving seat at the table, not only are they not asking for anything, they are bringing a full plate of value.
Jerome O’Neal is president of Plus Management Services Inc. and project manager of Unicent Technology Center. He is the program host of Hello Lima….A Community Perspective on Your Hometown Stations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org