Phenix City leaders issue call for unity
A diverse crowd of about 80 people joined Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe and other city leaders Thursday in front of the Public Safety Building to call and pray for unity in the city.
Under a blazing sun just after noon, Lowe called for the city to ignore those who are divisive and embrace those who encourage unity.
“It is so important that we as a community show unity,” Lowe said. “No team, no organization, can meet their maximum potential divided. You have to be a team. You have to unified. You have to care.
“This is to send a message to people in this community who do not want to get on board that this ship is going to keep rolling and we’re going to continue to show unity in Phenix City.”
Following the recent municipal elections, for the first time the city will have a majority black city council, black mayor and black city manager. That sparked a reference by local black activist Antonio Carter to refer publicly to Phenix City as “Chocolate City.”
Lowe said Thursday’s gathering had nothing to do with Carter’s statement, but rather grew out of a series of lunch meetings that he and a diverse group of citizens have been holding since long before the election.
“We are just trying to be proactive,” Lowe said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Phenix City School Superintendent Randy Wilkes had a prior commitment and could not attend, but Joe Blevins, the district’s director of operations, read a letter Wilkes wrote for the occasion. It echoed Lowe’s call for unity and stressed its importance in making the public schools a success.
“My hope is that we as individuals and as a community will not sow discord, nor create division, nor speak against one another,” Blevins read. “But that we will, rather, show kindness to one another, honor one another with humility, patience, self-control and love.”
Two pastors, the Rev. Wayne Scarborough of Auburn Heights Baptist Church and the Rev. Isaac Hudson of Nichols Chapel AME Church, spoke and prayed for unity in the city.
Scarborough said he remembers when public restrooms and water fountains in downtown Columbus were still racially segregated.
“We have come too far to turn back now,” he said.
Scarborough also cited the example of Baton Rouge, La., which was racially divided after a police shooting but then pulled together to help each other when the city was recently flooded.
“When the flood came, it brought the people together — black and white helping each other,” Scarborough said. “We realized that we need each other.”
Hudson said the city has made great strides toward racial unity, but people have to stay vigilant to keep making progress.
“Phenix City has demonstrated by the leadership on every level that we are a city that cares and that we have a mayor and a council that seeks to bring us together across the great divide,” he said.
Hudson also said that living in the past will not bring the city successfully forward into the future.
“Every city, every person, every community has a past. But our past does not define who we are or who we will become,” Hudson said. “It is looking ahead to our future and that there is a future that everyone wants.”
There were about 80 people standing behind Lowe, including some of the city’s most prominent residents. There were elected officials, judges, pastors and city employees.
Three of the county’s four judges — Mike Bellamy and David Johnson of the Circuit Court and Walter Gray of the District Court — were present. Sheriff Heath Taylor, District Attorney Kenneth Davis and Probate Judge Alford Harden stood behind the mayor.
At least three members of the current council, Gail Head of District 2, Jim Cannon of District 1 and Arthur Day of District 3, were in the crowd behind the mayor. Two of the newly elected councilmembers, Griff Gordy, who is at large, and Steve Baily, who will represent District 1, were present.