Chester County takes a stand against racism in CommUnity event

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By Kendall Patterson
Staff Writer

Racism has been a problem for America since the beginning.
Despite the many actions that took place in the 1960s with the help of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. to help African Americans gain their rights, the blacks of the United States still are not treated as equals by all.
The nation recently witnessed racism in one of its ugliest forms, murder. George Floyd of Minneapolis, Minnesota was killed in the result of being pinned down as a white police officer pressed his knee against his neck. His pleas to be unpinned as he repeated “I can’t breathe,” were not enough to earn him basic human rights.
His death sparked another pivotal point in the “Black Lives Matters” movement not only in the U.S. but worldwide. First there were protests, then there were riots and looting.
On the evening of Sunday, June 7, Chester Countians gathered at Chester County High School to pray and have conversations about racism in America.
Before the event, organizer Tommie “T.J.” Kirk, Chester County Middle School Principal, said, “Prayer should not be the last resort. Prayer should be the first resort,” he said. “I felt this is an opportunity for us to first come together and pray and secondly come together and talk; an opportunity to put our cellphones down, stop the Facebook, be face-to-face, be able to share concerns, be able to share stories, and have people who are willing to listen, learn and love throughout all of that.”
Henderson Mayor Bobby King and Henderson Police Chief Gary Davidson expressed that they will not tolerate acts of racism to be in the community.
“This community will not allow racism to continue. It will not let it go unchallenged, because if we don’t, it will tear your community in two,” said King.
One of the things repeated in the conversation is that in regards to the issue of racism, Chester County is one of the better places to live in comparison to the rest of the U.S.
“It’s good to live in a place where thousands live, where millions want to,” Freed-Hardeman President David Shannon said.
Henderson Alderman Michael Phelps, a black man, also shared how Henderson, Chester County is a great place to be.
“Coming up in Henderson, Chester County it’s been pretty nice for me… I can’t talk about any other place. But I can talk about Henderson, Chester County,” he said. “We have a great police department; both county and city. And I’ve been knowing some of these guys for a long time, and I’m telling you right now, we got the best. And believe it. They care. Some of the programs that they have started, it’s going to help this community, and it didn’t take somebody to get killed for them to start it.”
He told stories and examples of what it’s like to be a black man in America.
“When you go in a grocery store. When you go in a bank. When you go to buy clothes. When you go to buy shoes, You just a man and you a black man and you gonna be watched from the time you come in the store to the time you walk out,” he said.
Those were the things he had to teach his boys as they grew older.
He had to teach them this due to hatred being taught in homes he said.
“They don’t learn hatred in the streets. That hatred is taught in the house.”
Renee Croom sees a brighter future where blacks won’t have to tell their children to be cautious and more aware of their actions in public. She sees a future where children aren’t taught hatred.
“I see a new America, one where your people have let go of the past, the ugly parts of history,” she said. “I see a beautiful people united and living together as one where children are taught right and to do right.”
The event ended with everyone singing “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers and people having conversations with others who did not look like themselves.

Co-organizer Freed-Hardeman University President Shannon shared a story from the Bible and told the audience to act with compassion and speak with truth and love. Photos by Kendall Patterson
Chester County Middle School Principal Tommie “T.J.” Kirk, one of the events organizers, speaks and states how he wanted to get people off their phones and social media to have prayer and a collective conversation.
Sylvia Flowers and Shannon Sewell sang “Lean On Me” with the rest of the community during Sunday night’s CommUnity service.

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The Chester County Independent is a weekly newspaper, published on Thursdays, serving Chester County, Tennessee.

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