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Dozens gather in south Charlotte seeking action to end racism

Rev. Talbot Davis, pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, left, and the Rev. Percival Reeves, pastor of Sanctuary Charlotte Church react at a forum held at Sanctuary on Thursday night designed to build an interfaith, interracial coalition to move "from words to action" on racial justice.
Rev. Talbot Davis, pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, left, and the Rev. Percival Reeves, pastor of Sanctuary Charlotte Church react at a forum held at Sanctuary on Thursday night designed to build an interfaith, interracial coalition to move "from words to action" on racial justice. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Resegregated schools, lack of economic opportunities and pervasive racism were cited as some of the biggest challenges in a Thursday forum that drew about 75 people to Sanctuary Charlotte Church.

The theme was “From Words to Action,” but neither speakers nor audience members came up with quick solutions to the problems that have dominated national headlines for more than a year.

“We’d be lying if we said we had the solutions right here in this room right now,” said moderator James Ford, who is ending his stint as North Carolina’s teacher of the year and is assistant pastor at Sanctuary. “We want this group to be the beginning of a galvanizing movement.”

Social justice issues are so hard. Social charity issues are easy.

Panelist Talbot Davis, pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church

Ford, a former Garinger High teacher who just took a job with the Public School Forum of North Carolina, said the past 18 months have been filled with accounts of police brutality and other events that have forced racism into the national conversation.

The Rev. Percival Reeves, pastor of the Sanctuary church that sits within sight of the Carowinds roller coasters, said it was the racially motivated killings of nine people in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church that convinced him “you’ve got to get your church off the sidelines and into the game.”

Reeves drew applause when he described the biggest problem he sees: “the resegregation of the schools in Charlotte. I think that’s going to be debilitating to our community.”

Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP branch, said racism affects everything from socioeconomic status to the “school-to-prison pipeline” to African-Americans’ tendency not to trust each other. “We black folks, people of color, have always felt that we weren’t good enough,” she said.

Participants talked about the importance of families in shaping new generations who either promote justice or perpetuate hate. Mecklenburg County commissioner Ella Scarborough, an audience member, said she’s frustrated by companies that are recruited with public money but fail to create high-paying local jobs.

Panelist Jibril Hough, representing the Muslim community, agreed: “Charlotte has a bad habit of just bowing down to people who want to come here and it’s not benefiting people who live here.”

Participants wrote their names and contact information on cards to keep the group going. But the Rev. Talbot Davis, pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in southwest Charlotte, said attacking racism won’t be as easy as feeding the homeless.

“Social justice issues are so hard,” he said. “Social charity issues are easy.”

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