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June 26, 2013

ANDERSON: What’s up y’all?

(Continued)

We might try facing the issue head-on. We did in Jeffersonville a few years back with something called the Circle (maybe the wrong name) coordinated by the Rev. Joe Easley and the Rev. Michael Anderson, both of whom have left this area. 

Pastor Easley just retired in Evansville and Pastor Anderson died a few years ago from cancer. Both men had quite an impact. One black, one white, they coordinated study circles patterned after a community in Ohio that actually held meetings to discuss the issue of race in an open and non-threatening way. The effect at the time was something. I attended many of those meetings and was always amazed at the outcomes. 

The dialogue ended with their tenure here and like everything else, so did the results of the meetings. As a young social worker in the community, there was an established leadership that you recognized when you worked. Both white and black, Hispanics were few in the population then, but certainly could not be excluded today. 

Tom Bryant was the head of the NAACP, Gary Leavell was on that board and employed for the Indiana Employment Security Office in an administrative position. Jerry Stephenson was the CEO to Community Action; Phil Bates was the director of the Jeffersonville Housing Authority; Jeff Caldwell and Bill Shrewsberry were councilman, as well as Marvin Allen and Andrew Williams. Bobby Campbell was appointed by many local politicians as was Les Kavanaugh. Fay Allen held leadership roles as did Billy Sue Smith. Fast forward 15 years and what we don’t see is that level of participation from the black community. Why? 

Now more than ever, diversity is needed. Inclusiveness should be from all fronts, in all directions. Our community has not kept pace with the reality of our populations. 

As a region, we have a growing Hispanic population, which will soon equal the black population. While we are still predominantly a “white” populace, in numbers our key cities like New Albany, Jeffersonville and Clarksville have become very diverse in population. There is a richness to that. 

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