“Today we are one” is what Minister Paul Cunningham said as about 70 people gathered in front of the Marion County Courthouse for a Unity Walk Saturday.
The event was created to bring people together regardless of race. The walk started at the courthouse and continued on Broad Street to Friendship Park where, following a program, there was food, booths, slides for the children and fellowship for everyone.
Cunningham, who is the Columbia District Youth Department President of the Church of God in Christ and whose home church is Eaton Temple Church of God in Christ, stated, “God gave me a vision in order to be effective in our country, you have to start at home.” He further said, “One dream can shake the dynamics of life.”
The brief program at Friendship Park featured several speakers, including Mayor Justin McKenzie who spoke about change and how this is a beginning but knows it does not happen overnight.
“Unity, it’s all in the name” he said.
McKenzie then encouraged attendees to “remember the name of someone you just met and remember that person.”
McKenzie continued, “I saw where Tavis (Jordan) posted online ‘no more white on white crime, no more black on black crime, no more white on black or black on white crime.’ We have to be the ones to take the first step and say, ‘We are not going to do it. We are not going to tolerate it.’ We all have needs; we all have problems; we have things we are dealing with.”
McKenzie spoke of prayer for the leaders, for the police department, fire departments and first responders. The police officers tend to hang around other police officers and firefighters hang around firefighters, “they tend to stick with like-minded people.” He said police officers and firefighters may tend to be standoffish but most people do not realize what all they are going through or what maybe they just saw or had to deal with, but that simple words of encouragement mean a lot.
Also speaking was Columbia Police Chief Michael Kelly, who introduced Roy Dale, a student going into the 10th grade at Columbia High School, as one of their police explorers. The police department partners with young men and women interested in law enforcement to help them as they continue through high school, junior college and the police academy.
He also spoke of a new program, “Operation Handle with Care,” designed for young children who dealt with issues not of their own faults during the night, like a parent being arrested, and showing up at school the next day exhausted and distracted.
Kelly encouraged everyone there to come together as the church and by working together as the church a lot of the problems they deal with would come to an end.
“There is a great organization, there is a great force of people, not a local force but a global force that when we come together there is a not a problem under God’s sky that we cannot solve and that force is the church,” Kelly said.
Marion County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jamie Singley also spoke to the gathering.
“Community is important. In our small county, it takes everybody working together,” he said.
Tavis Jordan, one of the organizers, commented after the program concluded, “A change has come.”
Pictured Above: About 70 people gathered together in front of the Marion County Courthouse for a Unity Walk Saturday. The walk from the courthouse to Friendship Park was followed by a short program, food and fellowship. | Photo by Susan Amundson