Editorial: Race relations a key message this week
Feb 04, 2014 | 502 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Community activities commemorating Black History Month are gearing up in Cleveland and Bradley County, and several are being held this week.

Each is intended to explore race relations in our modern day by using a three-pronged approach: acknowledging the progress made in our past, updating and encouraging humanitarian efforts of our present, and identifying the people challenges of our future.

Our community is blessed to have a variety of organizations working together, and separately, to promote the cause of race relations — and yes, even in today’s world of 2014, because work remains. Just a few of these include 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc, Bradley County Branch of the NAACP, Pentecostal Theological Seminary, Church of God International Black Ministries, Lee University and Cleveland State Community College, among others.

Events scheduled this week are open to the public.

Here’s a quick glance:

- The Pentecostal Theological Seminary will host its annual “Black Ministries Awareness Celebration” in observance of Black History Month with programs set for Thursday and Friday. This year’s celebration is themed “Lord Make Us One,” and will bring together leaders in ministry and academia. A chapel service is scheduled Thursday at 11 a.m. featuring Dr. Clifton R. Clarke, professor and executive director of Global Missions at Regent University. Following Clarke’s presentation, the Seminary will host a luncheon, lecture and panel discussion titled “Identity and Pentecostalism,” moderated by Dr. Michael Reynolds. The day concludes with a public viewing of the film “Amazing Grace,” which tells the story of William Wilberforce’s campaign against the slave trade in the British Empire. The film begins at 7 p.m. in the Seminary’s Cross Chapel.

- Black Ministries activities continue Friday at the Church of God International Office with a 10 a.m. lecture by Dr. David Roebuck, director of the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center, who will present “The World of Edmund and Rebecca Barr.” The Barrs are longtime pioneers in promoting the work of African-Americans within the Church of God. Dr. Lamar Vest, former general overseer of the Church of God, and director of the Center for Spiritual Leadership and Lifelong Learning at PTS, will present a luncheon lecture. He will be followed by Dr. Kenneth L. Hill, director of Black Ministries for the Church of God. He will present the “State of Black Ministries” address.

- The Bradley County Branch of the NAACP will hold its Annual Freedom Fund Banquet on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Country Club. Featured speaker will be the Rev. J.R. Bridgeman, a former Cleveland resident who now lives in Chattanooga. Music will be provided by the Spiritual Highlights. Tickets for the gala are $40. During his Cleveland years, Bridgeman was a charter member of the Ministers Fraternity of Bradley County and of 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc. He served as president of the Bradley County Branch of the Tennessee Voters Council, and also as president and vice president of the local NAACP. He co-founded Parents on Patrol, founded Guardians Against Gangs, and hosted a weekly radio broadcast, “You Need to Know.” Pastoring for 42 years, Bridgeman currently is the pastor at Thompkin Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Chattanooga.

- Lee University’s Residential Life and Housing, along with the Diversity Council and Student Leadership Council, will host a presentation Friday at 7 p.m. in the Dixon Center. Featured speaker will be Stephon Ferguson, a motivational speaker who is best known for his presentations of the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ferguson, who hails from Atlanta, will present King’s “I Have a Dream” speech during his Cleveland appearance. The theme of the Lee University observation will be “Has the Dream Come True? Race Relations in the 21st Century.” Following his address, Ferguson will join Lee faculty in a panel discussion on racial equality. Audience participation will be encouraged.

That’s just this week.

More will be coming, including the communitywide Scholarship & Mentoring Banquet of 100 Black Men of Bradley County. It is scheduled Saturday, March 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the Deacon Jones Dining Hall on the Lee University campus.

Black History Month is a unique occasion to engage a sensitive topic — race relations — and to thrust it into the local spotlight ... but not in a negative perspective, nor one that is too sugar-coated.

Its intent is informational exchange and diversity appreciation.

Regardless of color of skin, people are people. But what defines humanity is our willingness to explore, and to share, common ground while understanding the value, and the hidden strengths, of cultures that differ from our own.

Black History Month provides this outlet. We urge all to partake of this heartwarming opportunity.

We will have more to say of Black History Month in Wednesday’s edition.