As divided Americans continue to grapple with the race-inspired violence that took the life of a counterprotester in Charlottesville, Va., just 11 days ago, a community advocate in Cleveland has …
As divided Americans continue to grapple with the race-inspired violence that took the life of a counterprotester in Charlottesville, Va., just 11 days ago, a community advocate in Cleveland has urged restraint by all ... starting at home.
The local organization’s national parent — 100 Black Men of America Inc. — has also penned a similar appeal.
Jonathan Porter, president of 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc. — whose mentoring and scholarship group issued a community-calming plea last year during the height of racial unrest across the country spurred by shootings by law enforcement officers — acknowledged bigotry in America remains real today. But, he urged local residents not to allow hate speech and bitterness to cross the threshold into Cleveland.
“It is evident that even today we have to face the reality of racism ... to the extent that violence is the end result,” Porter said on behalf of the 100 BMBC membership. “Too often during these unsettled times we are living in today, racism continues to be the topic of news across America.”
Porter’s statement this week suggested that what happened in Charlottesville — a permitted rally by a white nationalist group that opposed the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and which led to a deadly confrontation with counterprotesters — could happen in Cleveland and Bradley County if local residents, civic leaders, churches and government leaders don’t work together.
“As the president of the 100 Black Men of Bradley County, and a citizen of the great city of Cleveland ... The City With Spirit ... I hope and pray that our community won’t be faced with these types of violent protests, no matter what the cause might be,” Porter said.
The longtime civic leader reflected to November, the last time a protest — a peaceful rally that had the potential for turning violent — was staged in Cleveland. It occurred on the 25th Street public right of way in front of the Cleveland Daily Banner offices, and was led by an independent candidate in the 3rd Congressional District who was protesting the local newspaper’s balance in coverage of his campaign, as well as the publication’s editorial views.
In that rally, Porter was targeted by one protester’s sign, as was a newspaper editor and the Banner itself.
“It hasn’t been long ago that the last protest we had in front of the Cleveland Daily Banner, by Mr. Rick Tyler, which sparked a counterprotest of his message,” Porter stressed. “[It] was handled by our citizens and the professionalism of our Cleveland Police Department in such a manner that all parties went home safely.”
Tyler is a restaurant owner and businessman who lives in neighboring Polk County. His political campaign, wrapped around a controversial billboard slogan of “Make America White Again,” drew national attention.
Porter described the outcome of last November’s protest in Cleveland as being a “peaceful demonstration.”
“[But] in Charlottesville, during that protest, the outcome was deadly,” he added.
Porter said although Cleveland and Bradley County residents showed restraint in how they handled the local protest, the kind of violence that ravaged Charlottesville is not impossible for this community.
“Our city has to face the fact that we have racism here, too,” he pointed out. “Sad, but true it is. Let us all still find a way to respect each others’ different views and opinions, and learn to refrain from the types of horrific violence that we have seen spread throughout our nation.”
Like the 100 Black Men of America parent group, Porter called on America’s leaders to stand up against the kind of hatred — and violence — that gave Charlottesville the kind of international attention no city wants.
“Our country’s leaders must take a stand and show that they will not tolerate such violent behavior from any group protesting, and should be punished for such,” Porter stressed.
The civic leader pledged not to allow this type of national climate to negatively impact the work of the local 100 Black Men organization. He said the group will continue its Friday morning mentoring sessions at Cleveland Middle School, and will hold open dialogue with diverse groups of students.
“We will, as we always do, try to make sure that the children we have in our sessions are aware of current events that take place across our nation and community that affect race relations,” Porter stressed. “We have to discuss these topics at times to try to learn about the way they feel when being faced with racism.”
He pointed out the CMS mentoring sessions are made possible through the cooperation of the administrators of Cleveland City Schools and those of the individual schools.
“Our mentoring sessions are open to all of the kids who want to come to, and be mentored by, selected members of The 100, by peers in the school system, by community leaders and business professionals, as well as by sports icons as we can retain them,” Porter noted.
The 100 Black Men president said the mentoring sessions seek to achieve two goals: One, to attract a diverse assembly of students; and two, to bring positive impact to their lives.
“We usually have a diverse group of kids who attend each session and we hope we are able to make a difference in their lives that is, and will be, impactful for years to come,” Porter said.
Porter stressed the bottom line of the 100 Black Men of Bradley County message is this: “Our local chapter, and its members, will work to continue to make great strides in becoming a voice for our community. And, that collective voice will state, ‘Violence met with violence doesn’t solve anything.”
The statement included a quote from Joseph Conrad, a Polish-British novelist, who is credited with saying, “Violence is not a catalyst, but a diversion.”
The 100 Black Men of America statement — credited to Curley M. Dossman, chairman of the board, and Brian Pauling, president and CEO — was delivered Aug. 15, three days after the Charlottesville violence. It reads as follows:
“The 100 Black Men of America Inc. is profoundly saddened by the loss of life and deeply disturbed by the mobilization and organized bigotry that descended on Charlottesville, Va.
“First, we offer our heartfelt condolences to those who lost their lives, those who were injured, their families and the community.
“We expect the full force of the United States government, local law enforcement and elected representatives to bring to justice those responsible for inciting the violence that led to unfathomable carnage and deadly outcomes.
“The vile spirit of hatred and violence permeating in this country will continue until those in power take an aggressive and intentional stand against domestic terrorist, white supremacist, Nazi and white nationalist groups.”
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