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Combating racism post-Charleston

July 9, 2015
LI Herald

By: 

Rossana Weitekamp

Congresswoman Kathleen Rice last week called a private meeting with leaders of Nassau County’s traditionally black churches and organizations to discuss the safety needs of their communities in a post-Charleston era.

“We thought it would be a good idea to get leaders together in Nassau County, along with elected officials and law enforcement, to have a n honest discussion about race, bigotry and hatred,” said Rice after the meeting, which was held at the African American Museum in Hempstead.

Rice, who said the meeting was not a “one shot deal”, said the group would be getting together once every two months to continue discussions and next steps in addressing the issue. “They’re putting together a coalition for all of Long Island to have a discussion about race so the leaders in our community can have that kind of judgment, love compassion trickle down where it needs to get – to our children. To learn that hatred racism, bigotry is not acceptable. We need to learn to live together and forget about the minor differences.

Bea Bayley, president of the NAACP’s Lakeview chapter and a trustee to the St. Paul’s AME Church, also in Lakeview, said that different pastors talked about security measures that they have been taking since the shooting, and one idea was to have members of the congregation, who are licensed to carry fire arms, volunteer as security for the church during the services. “We’ll also be starting a security ministry at a church for the same reason,” said Bayley. “We want our parishioners to fee free to come to worship without fear of an attack.

Bayley added that it is a shame that the churches have to go through these measures in their places of worship, “but if that’s what we have to do , that’s what we have to do,” said Bayley. “We did ask for a greater police presence at the various churches, but you know — what can you do.”

Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said she hoped to break down the silos all of the different groups worked in, to keep the communities safe and do it together. “It’s going to take a little extras work, but we should all be having these conversations,” said Singas.

When asked about the suggestions made during the meeting to combat the problem, Singas said that a rabbi suggested we all do nine acts of kindness as a tribute to the nine who lost their lives in Charleston. There were also suggestions of a march to let the community know that all the groups in the meting were coming together and that others could join them in the effort.

Both Town of Hempstead and Nassau County police commissioners were present at the meeting, and said they would help religious institutions come up with safety plans and reaffirmed their commitment to prosecuting hate crimes vigorously.

“It was a great meeting,” said Singas. “Out of something so tragic came something good.”