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Monday, February 23, 2015

Dialogue on Race Relations @ Troy University, Dothan, Alabama


Posted: Saturday, February 21, 2015 3:56 pm | Updated: 8:59 pm, Sat Feb 21, 2015.

Carly Omenhiser,
Follow Carly Omenhiser on Twitter at @EagleBizCarly
Business Reporter

The Sony Hall at Troy University in Dothan was filled Saturday with various members of the community all joining together for the Dialogue on Race Relations event.

The event was hosted by assistant professor of sociology Jeneve Brooks and featured several panelists invited to discuss race relation issues.

Panelists were Audri Scott Williams, author; Jim Smith, public safety coordinator for Troy University’s Dothan campus; Joseph Johnson, pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church; Kenny Glasgow, founder of The Ordinary People Society; Sgt. Mac Eggleston, public information officer with the Dothan Police Department; and Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz.

Williams, of Cottonwood , said she feels on some levels the state has made great strides when it comes to race relations.

“Fifty years ago we all would have been brutally beaten and jailed if we were sitting here together having this conversation so obviously there’s been change and there’s been progress,” she said. “I think where we still have work to do is on racial bias that impacts our institutions and systems where our youth and young people and people of color get caught up in disproportionately. That’s the work now. How do we shift that?”

Williams said she hopes to see similar discussions hosted within the community in the future.

“I think the only way we see change is by building relationships and get to know each other heart to heart. That changes the way we think about the choices that we make,” she said.

Eggleston said it’s always a great opportunity when he gets a chance to talk to members of the community.

“Unfortunately we don’t have the opportunity that often, unless it’s under certain circumstances where people would rather not see the police,” he said.

Eggleston said he hopes to see things go back to the way they used to be where members of the police force could be out on the street and members of the community were comfortable approaching officers to speak to about anything whether it is bad or good.

“This is a great opportunity for those who’ve maybe had some questions before but were afraid to talk to the police or just talk to any members on our panel,” Eggleston said. “Anytime we can have something like this it’s a good thing … You always learn something new from everyone that you talk to.”

For the city of Dothan, Mayor Schmitz said he was pleased with the turnout and being able to have a real discussion about race issues is a great benefit to the community.

“Anyone that has watched what has gone on in the country and Ferguson (Missouri) and thinks it can’t happen to them, they’re wrong. So let’s make our community better and stronger by all of us working together,” he said.

With 30 percent of the city’s population African American, Schmitz said, “we’ve got to make sure they have a voice, they feel part of the community and that we have dialogue, but we need to be sure we’re doing that and today’s event helps with that.”


12:46 pm est          Comments

Saturday, February 21, 2015

50th Anniversary Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March, 2015
 A Living Legacy of Walking for Peace and Social & Environmental Justice

The Trail of Dreams World Peace Walkers, 13 Moon Walk 4 Peace Walkers, Out of Washington Respect for Mother Earth Walkers and the Trail of Dreams Ancestral Journey 1 & 2 are inviting walkers and communities to join us for the 50th Anniversary of the 54 mile march from Selma to Montgomery!

When: March 9 – March 13, 2015

Where: Beginning at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama at 8 AM on March 9, 2015 and ending at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery on March 13

More information will be available regarding this portion of the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Walk. In the meantime the official website for all events during Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee is: http://www.selmajubilee.com

Walkers are responsible for their own food, lodging and transportation. You may contact Audri at aew.qltc@gmail.com
or call 404-374-1162 for more information.

8:32 pm est          Comments

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Celebrating the Victory of Love in the state of Alabama
I will always remember this day, just as history will, because on this day, Tori and Shanté Wolfe Sisson became a beautiful and happily married couple amidst clicking cameras, and news sources anxious to capture their story. Karen Hunter Watson and I stood as the proud Godmothers, and I the proud partner, as Rev. Karen officiated the very first legal same gender loving wedding ceremony right across the street from the Montgomery County Courthouse.

The morning was actually a bit surreal. We arrived just before 8 AM. The morning was gray and rainy but Tori’s voice, coming through the cell phone, sounded excited and a bit tired as she guided us to the best space to park and made sure someone was there to meet us and to get us to the court entrance. She and Shanté actually camped out on the sidewalk near the courthouse entrance, the night before, so they could be the first same gender loving couple to get their marriage license from the county judge. With all of the stress of shifting judicial rulings “they will/they will not” allow same sex marriages to take place in the state of Alabama, they were holding up pretty good and at 8AM they were through the doors and heading up the stairs for their license.

While Karen waited inside the courthouse for their return, Angela Blackwell, our friend and photographer, and I waited anxiously, making new friends and sharing hugs. The atmosphere was one of love and victory!! Some people came bearing gifts for all (muffins and lace satchels with bubbles and chocolate kisses.) One of the policemen came up to us and suggested we set up a space across the street for the ceremony so there would be more privacy for the wedding when they came out. Privacy -- that is funny to me now because the minute Tori, Shanté and Karen came through those courthouse doors, the media cameramen, interviewers, writers with pads and pens came rushing in like a giant wave.

Tori and Shanté looked so happy. As they crossed the street, there was a single protester standing wearing a sign with biblical quotes, shouting as the young couple rushed by. What struck me in the moment was as he was shouting his discontent (“being the voice of God”) Tori and Shanté kept moving and you could hear Tori as she passed through the crowd shouting back sincerely, “I love you.” I witnessed the love in her and saw the light that she cast in this situation. It seemed to silence the heckler for a while. I thought to myself, “Mm, he is shouting what he feels God had to say about same gender loving couples having the right to marry, while Tori and Shanté were being the love of God in action.”

With their profound act of love, Tori and Shanté lifted us beyond the political battles being fought in courthouses throughout the state. With their grace, dignity, humility, youthful spirit and ageless wisdom and yes their beautiful engaging smiles, they landed us in our hearts -- the place where change is born.

Click, click, the sound of the cameras brought me back to full awareness that it was time for the ceremony to begin.  Click, click signaled a victory not only for Alabama’s LGBT community and those who love and support the human rights and dignity of all people, the sound also signaled the conscious evolution of our humanity and the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Beloved Community” –
"Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives… injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
6:41 am est          Comments

Monday, February 2, 2015

2015 Building Creative Communities Conference

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Building Creative Communities Conference in Colquitt, Georgia, Home of Georgia's play, Swamp Gravy.  Colquitt, Georgia is a national model for community and economic development through the Arts, Heritage and Culture. Colquitt in partnership with Florida State University, Department of Urban and Regional Planning presented this very special opportunity for us to play with crayons and markers, sing and learn the art of story play-- all towards the goal of creating positive social change.

The Building Creative Communities Conference mission is to motivate, encourage, empower and inspire community advocates by sharing ideas, learning new skills, and fostering positive change. The experience was very uplifting and connections made were inspiring. Thank you Joy Jinks and Karen Kimbrel and your outstanding team there in Colquitt and beyond. Janet Sanders,Tannur "Shewrightz" Ali, Richard Geer, Margaret Ashmore, Rhea and Vicky thank you as well for your spirit of true love and commitment to a transformative process that the world surely needs.

Thank you to Jean Houston for introducing the foundations of Social Artistry as a means of addressing the times we find ourselves in: "The times of great change and remarkable opportunity are upon us. To succeed we can no longer go it alone, but must partner with one another to share innovative and creative ways in which to rethink and restructure our individual existence within the context of our expanding global communities. To do this requires a heightened awareness, an awakened sense of purpose, and a dedicated commitment to actively seek out the possible."  Jean Houston

What was my take away? The healing/transformative power of communities, healing and nurturing themselves through Storytelling and Social Artistry; capturing their history and oral traditions -- heroes and sheroes; good times and bad times -- through storytelling, theatrical renderings, murals and, and, and ...Young and Young at Heart, Black, White, Native American, Asian, Latino,  Gay, Straight, Rich and Poor -- the beloved community -- our communities, our homes, our stories and our "awakened sense of purpose and dedicated commitment to actively seek the possible" -- together.



11:23 pm est          Comments

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