By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian
ARKADELPHIA — Being brutally honest with ourselves is part of addressing and correcting racial injustice in Clark County.
Rev. Llewellyn Terry, pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church, was brutally honest in his 14-minute speech Monday, calling out “obvious discrepancies” in local politics, education, finance, law enforcement and the judicial system. Terry’s message was delivered to about 80 residents who marched in the annual Marade from Mt. Olive to the Clark County Courthouse gazebo.
In addition to being brutally honest about racial inequality, other necessary actions include “aggressive recruitment” of black leaders and being “intentionally inclusive” of all races, he told the crowd.
Terry called out Arkadelphia Public Schools for its apparent lack of diversity among administrators and coaches, saying qualified black candidates have been turned away for positions. To have a black coach lead the school’s athletic programs, Terry said, would make the very athletes who take teams to state competitions “feel comfortable to see and hear somebody who can call them and check on them.”
He also hinted at an active lawsuit against the district claiming racism in student discipline. “We need to know when teachers and administration mistreat our kids,” he said, “and [when] they’re wrong they need to admit it, accept responsibility and just move forward.”
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Switching gears, Terry called out law enforcement and the court system, saying “some things never make it to court, never make the paper. We can’t hide behind some things and put others on blast. If you want to know the truth, the same crimes that are committed in the black community are committed in the white community.”
The Baptist pastor also pleaded with law enforcement leaders to create a “legitimate” chaplaincy program. “When things happen in our community — black, white, it don’t matter — that family needs to know that somebody loves them, that somebody’s praying for them, and there’s somebody that can offer spiritual support” in their time of loss.
In being brutally honest about racial issues, Terry commented that there is racism in Arkadelphia. “I’ve heard white people in Little Rock say it’s a racist town,” he said. “I would like to think we want to get away from that description of Arkadelphia. We want corporate America, we want industry to come here, and that’s why some don’t come — because we have that stigma of being a racist community.”
He also called for the re-formation of a racial and cultural diversity committee by the Arkadelphia City Board of Directors; leaders being more transparent with the community when problems arise; and a broader schedule of events celebrating MLK’s legacy, suggesting more speeches and gatherings the week prior to the Marade and its ceremony.
Terry was bold in warning that the community is more apt to wait until a racial incident occurs before banding together. “We’ll wait until tragedy comes and then come together,” he said.
Having lived in Arkadelphia for 30 years, Terry said he continues to see racial inequality: “I still see the same soup warmed up all over again. We’ve got to be different.”
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