The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved, Jeremiah 8:20.
Is this statement appropriate today for our city?
All of us know that Pine Bluff, with its scores of churches, is full of false prophets; those who misrepresent the Word of God for the rewards and prestige of leading the people without making the sacrifice; those who have not been called but went anyway; those who were called to salvation, but mistook that for a call to preach. I cannot help but believe that when the voters of Pine Bluff placed four ministers of the Gospel on the City Council, they believed that finally they had elected decent, God-fearing people who would take a stand on issues that are meaningful to us and that reflect tenets for the establishment of a peaceable and healthy community for the families who live in this city.
On Monday, August 5th, the Pine Bluff city councilmen “preached” a most powerful message to our families, youth and young children. The essence of the message is that it is a good thing for our citizens to exercise irresponsible behavior and hang out all night in the clubs and small joints of the city.
Anyone who has lived in this city for any period of time knows that the city has two totally different cultures. One that values parenting their children to be law-abiding, hard-working, contributing citizens of society; and the other, that sleeps all day and come out at night to basically destroy the city, themselves and others. They push drugs, alcohol, sex, crime and any other vice possible. They are parasites who live by preying on the healthy citizens of the community.
Grandparents, great-grandparents and other family members in epidemic proportions are having to step in to raise children abandoned by their unrestrained night-clubbing parents. No, we cannot make people assume their responsibilities or act responsibly; nor can we stop evil people from doing evil things; however, we do not have to join in league with them to protect, encourage and promote vile behavior over decent, law-abiding, responsible behavior.
My question to the aldermen who voted against Mayor Debe Hollingsworth’s proposal to close the night clubs of our city by 1 a.m. is: “Would we gain more taxes from these small joints or from companies like Microsoft, Target or any number of other large corporations/industries that might choose a healthy city with a good strong workforce in which to settle?”
The image of our city is extremely negative throughout the state of Arkansas and beyond. The mayor even asked the councilmen to remember that our city is being observed by site locaters even now and that their vote on this issue is being watched. Disregarding her reminder, these aldermen who came with their minds already made up, proudly and with “stiff necks” voted once again against potential progress for the city of Pine Bluff.
For many years, citizens of this city have had prayer vigils, prayer walks, prayer on the steps of City Hall, monthly prayers at the Harmony Baptist Association, motorcades around the city, even elected preachers as aldermen, etc. Obviously, the voice of the people is one of hope for change in the way that our city is administered, and each time they have been betrayed.
As a civil rights veteran myself, I believe that this is the time for those of us who really want to change this city from a “City of Regress” to a “City of Progress” to take action. The people who now claim to represent us on our city’s council are not representing what we fought so hard for in the 60’s — some were even arrested. Let’s seek out wise people in our community, people of good character, people who are able to use common sense and logical reasoning, people who love our children — and encourage them to run for City Council seats in 2014 and thereafter.
As citizens of Pine Bluff, we must go to the streets, go to the ballot box and take authority in our city before we literally become a ghost town, victims of our own corruption. Criminals, shysters, alcoholics, child-abusers, sex traders, drug pushers and those who profit from such activities should have no authority in our city government. This type of environment that promotes and even breeds criminal behavior does not have to dominate or be tolerated in our city.
Let’s clean up our act so that people will stop fleeing the city and will happily return to Pine Bluff. Corporations will then choose this as their home, and we will have much-needed jobs and a good strong tax base. Most importantly, let’s give the children of Pine Bluff hope with good positive role models to immulate and programs to nurture them as they grow. What if we had a population of people who were rested, drug-free and prepared to report to work each day without absenteeism.
In addition, let’s not forget that many people who grew up in Pine Bluff and loved the city but had to leave to find jobs and earn their fortunes elsewhere will return here to retire and help build the city. We have finally elected a mayor who, apparently, truly wants to add on to and expand some of the better initiatives of our last mayor. She has expressed her desire to make real and positive change in our community, but the woman has been in office less than a year and has already had nothing but opposition.
This (a fighting and deadlocked City Council) is where I came in when I returned home almost 20 years ago. Maybe we should cooperate with Mayor Hollingsworth for at least as long as we did Mayor Redus as she attempts to implement her God-given vision for our city.
Joanna P. Edwards, Ph.D., is a retired professor emeritus of humanities at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She is an ordained minister and is currently an adjunct professor at UAPB teaching Old and New Testament history. She lives in Pine Bluff.