For a majority black city such as Macon, the black community must do a better job of organizing and creating a list of priorities.
That was the sentiment of the panel that took part in a Martin Luther King Jr. Commission-sponsored symposium, held Monday night at the Douglass Theatre, which co-sponsored the event.
About 60 people showed up to listen to a panel that included former state Rep. David Lucas, Macon City Councilman Henry Ficklin, attorney Stephanie Miller, and Darryl Muhammed, a minister with the Nation of Islam. Former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis moderated the panel, using King’s book “Where Do We Go From Here?” as a basis for topics critical to the black community.
“Dr. King challenged us,” Ellis said before the event. “He laid out a blueprint for us (in the book) about the problems that confront us. Macon is a microcosm of America. The book lays out solutions in politics, education and public safety. But we’ve never fully implemented it.”
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During the symposium, members of the panel pointed out in different ways that the local black community isn’t united in the way it needs to be, and thus can’t take advantage of comprising 69 percent of the city’s population.
Miller said blacks need to be more active in the community and in the voting booth.
“There’s been a lack of activism,” she said. “If you stop demanding it, they’re going to stop giving it to you. ... It’s shocking to me how few members of our community know about the (electoral) process.”
Lucas and Ficklin both pointed to blacks not learning enough from history to give them the proper perspective in facing the important issues of today.
For Lucas, that involved not knowing how things such as the current Bibb County school system evolved into what it is today.
“You have to know where things came from to know where we are headed,” he said, pointing to a correlating rate of high school dropouts in Bibb County to a 78 percent incarceration rate among blacks at the Bibb County jail.
Ficklin, an educator in the school system, noted that little black history is taught in the classroom, and what is taught usually revolves around King. Very little black history is taught prior to King’s life, he said.
Muhammed echoed the ideas of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who said the No. 1 problem facing blacks is disunity.
“We cannot integrate among ourselves,” he told the audience. “There’s an ugly beast of classism that has come into our community. We can’t take advantage of our numeric strength (at the voting booth). We have to come together. ... We’re a community in crisis that needs to unite together and vote in a block.”
Ellis said he thinks the most important issue facing the black community is poverty, which can lead to crime, poor education and other social problems.
Macon City Councilwoman Elaine Lucas told the audience that there are two other forums in the works, concerning the school system and the proposed consolidation legislation.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.