Local group discusses race relations
By Stephan Drew, Editor
On Tuesday, September 20th, a group of concerned citizens met at the New Providence Missionary Baptist Church, located at 2151 Cashua Ferry Road in Darlington. Termed “Darlington Together”, they were gathered to hear from community leaders and to discuss race relations in this area. Linda Beckham, one of the program coordinators, explained, “I think the South has a unique challenge, with an almost equal mixture of black and white, we’re forced to deal with living together in more than just theory.” Beckham went on to discuss that unique nature. “While there are good people everywhere, the South has a special quality of extending love,” she said.
“I truly believe the only way we can meet our challenge is through a spiritual lens and with love,” Beckham stated. Kirby Samuel, who is also a coordinator of the program and member of New Providence, expressed the community’s need for spiritual growth. “In every organization, except the Almighty, Satan is trying as hard as he can to mess it up,” he said.
Florence Mayor Teresa Myers Ervin addressed the crowd about local resources, opportunities and creating community partnerships. Ervin, a native of South Carolina, is Florence’s first African-American female mayor. She has a nursing degree from Florence-Darlington Technical College and a B.A. from Francis Marion University, as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from FMU. Ervin discussed showing off your community when outside interests, looking to invest, come to your town. Ervin said, “When corporations come into any area, they’re looking at ‘what kind of community am I coming to?’” Ervin also discussed complete transparency when she said, “You may take them to one part of town that you want them to see. But, they’re going to see what you don’t want to show them and they’re going to see if you treat all of your citizens fairly.”
Ervin expressed the need for total honesty when discussing the issues. “Face up to the issues you have. When you come up there, don’t tell us about all the beautiful things. Tell us what’s wrong,” she said. “Darlington, I urge you tonight, take the time to talk and be honest with each other,” Ervin told the crowd.
Beckham recognized Kirby Samuel and Ragland “Rags” Coxe for helping to coordinate the meeting and set up everything.
Darlington Mayor Curtis Boyd also spoke of spiritual needs in the area. “We can fix many of these issues if everyone would open their heart to Jesus Christ,” Boyd stated. He continued, “A lot of people say they believe in God. But, until they have a personal relationship with Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they’re going to have some problems.”
Those in attendance were asked to change seats and sit at another table with people they didn’t know. During the event, friendliness, laughter and genial conversation was on exhibit around the room as more integration and appreciation were discussed. The groups voiced their concerns over gangs, drugs, human/sex trafficking and violence in the schools. Other topics of discussion included the homeless population, litter and lack of pride and gun violence. It was also pointed out that there are several businesses and organizations in our area, like the Boy Scouts and Genesis Foundation, which have youth programs.
Mrs. Beckham described the general consensus of the crowd after discussion. “We are not communicating but, living in our own separate worlds. We need to keep our individual cultures but share more and create a stronger town by working together.” She summed up by saying, “We need to integrate and learn about and appreciate each other. Darlington Together will meet again on October 18.