Jerome O’Neal: Enrichment about respecting differences

By Jerome O’Neal - Guest Column

The Community Enrichment Dinner was held recently at the Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center. The committee worked hard over the past several months to put this event on and we just wanted to say “thank you” to the entire community and specifically, The Lima News, and other media sponsors for their support of the event.

The dinner turned out to be a huge success. The event was filled with not only a very interesting and inspirational speaker, but also lessons on how a Greater Lima Community has much more respect for each other’s differences than what we might think.

Yes, there is room for improvement. We must start the dialogue and maintain an understanding of respect for what we all bring to the community. The goal of the CED has always been to showcase the positive impact that African-Americans have on the Greater Lima Community and the importance of an inclusive community toward promoting the region’s growth.

Intolerance of others comes from a lack of knowledge and/or understanding of one another, who we are, and what our value is to society.

Through the Community Enrichment Dinner, the hope was for community leaders to sit down and take a moment to be exposed to something new. Greater Lima is made up of a collective group of residents, from different walks of life with many individual experiences, both good and bad, but all wanting a strong, growing, safe and inclusive community.

Many times, injustice follows us from how we were raised, from our homes, our streets, our community. And many times, it’s easy to ignore and at times accept because, “Well, that’s just the way it is around here.” Or, we can choose to use what little influence each of us have to fight it.

It will take a sacrifice of ego’s, territory and “perceived power” from those entrenched in the status quo. If we expect justice for ourselves, we must support it for others.

Through the Community Enrichment Dinner, you see an event filled with local and state elected officials, local judges, first responders, educators, small business, rich and poor, black and white, people from all walks in our community. Although the event is supporting a section of the population, African-American, it is also helping us as individuals become better reflections of ourselves, all with a common goal of respect, acceptance and understanding as we help grow and enrich our community.

I can remember opening a death threat letter mailed to me (and two other people) for joining the Elks Club years ago. If you never received a death letter filled with hate, it’s hard to explain how I was caught between different emotions of fear and embarrassment. These same emotions resurfaced when I was appointed campaign chair of The United Way and a large contributor requested his check be returned because of my appointment. And again, when I was a finalist for the Jefferson Award a few years ago and the receptionist at my work opened an envelope that had a picture of me from The Lima News with a rope made into a noose around my neck.

We can use these occurrences to lay a foundation to build more hate and intolerance and pass it down to our kids and others or, we can use it for growth and change. What we try to do with the Community Enrichment Dinner is to show genuine growth and engagement from helping others through inclusion all the while respecting differences we each bring.

So, to all that supported the Community Enrichment Dinner, we want to express our sincere gratitude. We hope you enjoyed the evening and at times hope it may have challenged your assumptions, changed your view point or even changed the question but most of all it made you believe in the good of each other in Greater Lima.

By Jerome O’Neal

Guest Column

Jerome O’Neal is president of Plus Management Services and Home Health Systems of Northwest Ohio

Jerome O’Neal is president of Plus Management Services and Home Health Systems of Northwest Ohio

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