Charles Thomas: Music can bring cultural healing


By Charles Thomas - Guest Columnist

On Sunday, Jan. 7, the headline in The Lima News read “Cultural fence-mending unfinished.” The article went on to explain the challenges that remain 10 years after a shooting divided the city of Lima.

I would argue that divisions, unfortunately, may simply be ingrained into the fabric of some institutions within the city, a city not void of having an abundance of great people, which in itself is shameful. I have written so many times about the injustice of ignoring the African American community regarding our local radio media. Some people writing to this newspaper have even gone as far as to suggest that African Americans form their own radio station while at the same time forgetting that one third of the dollars allocated for city road construction come from the pocket of African Americans, roads that are used every day by Childers Media as well as Iheart Media. Such a suggestion, although it may be well meaning, was an argument used in a dark part of American History when those same people were told to “build and attend your own schools.”

Music, as we all know, is such a large part of everything we say and do. Music, after all, is the universal language of the entire world. Music provides us with memories and can take us to anyplace in time that we choose. Music provides comfort in times of deep stress. Movies would be much less entertaining if there was no music during scenes with romance, horror or action.

During the 1967 Detroit race riots, radio station CKLW was given credit for acting as a cushion to soften the impact of those riots through its musical selections, which included a mixture of R&B, Motown, Rock, and of course music that became known as the British invasion.

To the south, radio station WLAC, in Nashville, Tennessee, was given credit in a similar way by providing nighttime R&B throughout a broad section of America with, like CKLW, 50,000 watts of power. Most seasoned African Americans, raised in the South, will never forget hearing the voices of Big John R, Hoss Allen or Gene Nobles, three white guys with black voices and loved by everyone. Loved for simply one reason, they provided a much-needed service to the African American community. It’s been said that real joy comes not from ease and riches, it comes from doing something worthwhile, and though none of those gentlemen are with us now, they left with joy and remembering them is perhaps the greatest passion of love and honor we can offer.

Those two past giants, CKLW and WLAC, set an example as to how to use their towers of power to bring people together.

As a person that previously worked in law enforcement, I don’t think black people in Lima dislike law enforcement as a whole, but I do think there is some underlying anger resulting from grief, poverty and abject isolation. When you choose to eliminate serving one third of this community through our local media, you have chosen to isolate people and, in a most public way, you have spoken in a way that says those people, “You are unworthy.”

If people live in “limited isolation” and the only contact you have outside of that isolation is with law enforcement, it is likely to be more tense than it needs to be or should be. The deepest principal of human nature is to be recognized, appreciated and respected, isolation injures all of those. When living things are injured, they strike back in one form or another, and mostly in a negative way, as we have unfortunately witnessed lately.

You can not treat people in a second-class way and then stand back and scratch your head in wonder when people act in a second-class way. If this city is ever going to achieve the goal of being that shining city on a hill, we’ve got a duty to ensure that everyone feels as though they are a part of the hill, that they belong. When we do that, not only are we lifting people up, but we are changing the attitudes of their minds, which, in turn, changes the outer aspects of their lives.

Status quo is not working, and the politics of hate and division that we see on a national level is a model of long gone past. Each one of us has a place in our hearts with the capabilities of making this community, this world a better place for everyone.

As host at the Upper Lounge at Old City Prime, I witness an audience nearly at capacity each time the R&B group KGB performs there. Though the audience is most always half black and half white, for those few hours we are family. If we can be family for a few hours, there is no reason we can not be family for 24 hours.

We all live here, and we aren’t going anywhere, so we should make every individual feel needed and wanted, and if we do, we will all be better for it. I don’t know too many people that would invite a group of people into your home and serve pie to three-fourths of the group while the other quarter sat and watched you enjoy your treat.

That is basically what is transpiring at both Childers Media and iHeart Media. You tell me this is my home, but it is only you eating the pie.

As Michael Jackson once sang, “If you care enough for the living, make a better place for you and for me.” And if you do so, there will be no need for Lima News headlines to read “Cultural fence-mending unfinished.”

Most people in this community are people with big hearts, but it is the silence of those big-hearted people that have hurt Lima because silence only empowers that which is not right. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Those with big hearts must find their voice, and when they do, they will find the space to move Lima into a better place.

No, it’s not going to wash away all of Lima’s issues, but it certainly is a good starting point. As human beings, we care for each other because within us lies the capacity to love and with the energy of love, we have the ability to cure, curing both the ones who give it as well as the ones that receive it.

An author named Rusty Berkus once wrote, “There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential and expectations.”

By Charles Thomas

Guest Columnist

Charles Thomas, of Lima, is a former law enforcement officer and former radio show host. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.

Charles Thomas, of Lima, is a former law enforcement officer and former radio show host. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.

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