Columbus, Ga.- Members of Columbus’ African-American community came together Wednesday afternoon at the Liberty Theater Cultural Center for The State of Black Columbus. It was standing room only for the hour long panel discussion created to address problems plaguing the black community.
The issues raised by concerned citizens during The State of Black Columbus included crime, unemployment, education, and the role faith plays in providing solutions. While Black lives were at the center of this conversation, the group felt problems in Columbus are by no means reserved for one race.
“We know that Black issues are not only Black issues. However, in order to address them we have to start within our own community, listening to our own people and this is where it starts,” says Teddy Reese.
Panelists described the dialogue during The State of Black Columbus as critical. With Dr. Judy Purnell laying out why the time for this particular conversation is now.
“We are as a people, a nation within a nation and the laws in this country do not govern nor protect us the way that they do other individuals. So yes, sometimes we have to come together as a group to see where we are,” says Purnell.
Particularly after experiencing one of the deadliest weeks in the Fountain City- crime was a central focus.
“Do we have a crime problem? Yes. Do we have a gang problem? Yes. Do we have unemployment problems here in Columbus? Yes. Can we blame one person? No. But collectively we can work together to change that,” says Reese.
So what are the solutions? For many panelists, religion was the answer. But for panelist and Georgia State University student Destiny Elliott, there appears to be a disconnect among millennials.
“They’re becoming more spiritual and less religious. And I feel like that’s where the disconnect starts. That’s why younger people aren’t going to the church anymore,” says Elliott.
Toiya Tucker says Black clergy will have to do ministry differently.
“Look, we need you. What can you do to come out of the church, because actually the mission of the church is outside the four walls,” says Tucker.
Purnell: “James Baldwin stated that if you can find a Black person, he said Negro at the time-in America that was sane, he could prove they were insane. His question was: “How can you be sane in an insane environment?”
Danielle Forte was optimistic about future conversations and steps towards creating change.
“I think this was at the beginning stages of identifying the problem in order to execute or at least devise a plan to execute that plan.”
The organizers of The State of Black Columbus tell News 3 that Wednesday’s conversation will be the first of many to come.