Who’s going to save Selma?

Published 10:14pm Saturday, March 20, 2010

Who’s going to save Selma?

I recently had the opportunity to meet with one of the candidates running for the Congressional District 7 seat being vacated by Artur Davis as he campaigns for governor. The candidate’s name is irrelevant for the purpose of this column as it could be any candidate, or anyone who does not live here, who thinks they have the cure for what ails Selma and the Black Belt.

As political candidates do, after some handshakes and niceties, they began to outline their political resume, what they had accomplished and how they were more qualified than the others running for District 7.

As they spoke I quietly listened, snaked on finger foods and swilled my cocktail. I’d heard this speech before; many times. But my ears sharpened when I heard them begin to speak about their “connection” to the Black Belt, and how they understood the challenges we faced and how they could help fix what was broken here. The crumbling infrastructure, the high unemployment and massive underemployment, the challenges and failures in public education and often times strained relationships between citizens and government would all be addressed if only they were elected.

After the candidate answered several “softball” questions and got patted on the back for what a good job they had done in their prior position, there was a break in the conversation. It’s at that point I looked at them and said “I hope I don’t make you angry or hurt your feelings, but I don’t believe a word you’ve just said.” It wasn’t that I thought the candidate was lying about their accomplishments but I explained that nobody was going to remedy the issues in Selma but the people who live here – all the people, not just some of them. It’s the people of Selma, past and present, who caused the aforementioned issues we face and the people of Selma are going to have to fix them. And yes, I count myself as one of those people.

We are quick to blame our elected officials, our police force, our pastors, our educators, people that are “different” than us and, yes, the media, for the challenges we face and look to someone else to fix our problems. Instead, we need to hitch up our pants, come together as a community and, dare I say it, work together to make something good happen.

In the last two years I’ve seen some progress in Selma, but it has been insignificant in its scope and impact. City and county government seem to be operating at “status quo” while the naysayers continue to spew their rant. Our city, once known as the “Queen City,” is dirty and broken with little being done to fix it. Apathy is at an all time high, even higher than the unemployment rate that continues to dog us. We focus on the problems rather than focusing on the solutions and talk about “how things used to be.” It’s always someone else’s fault and it’s frustrating.

It’s a sad story, but it doesn’t have to have a sad ending. The one thing I know about Selma is there are good people here. Really, really, good people of all races, ages, demographics and socioeconomics. These people truly care about Selma but they feel helpless to do anything about it. They feel like they’re on an island surrounded by a sea of apathy. They allow the naysayers here to dominate the landscape and darken our future. Most sit idly by while the buildings and streets continue to crumble, the public education system flounders and the assets we have through the Grace of God remain underutilized.

Until these good people decide enough is enough, rise up and band together for the betterment of our community and actually do something instead of talking about it then things will remain the same and we’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves (or those that are left) when this community fades into oblivion.

If status quo is the outcome you desire, then do nothing and it will happen. If you want positive change, then do something. Be positive about your community. Get involved with your children or grandchildren’s school. Hold your friends and neighbors accountable for doing the same thing – and if they don’t, let them know they’re contributing to the problem. Block out the naysayers and the plague of fear and subversion they churn out. Recognize them for the potholes they are and go around them.

Who’s going to save Selma?

I recently had the opportunity to meet with one of the candidates running for the Congressional District 7 seat being vacated by Artur Davis as he campaigns for governor. The candidate’s name is irrelevant for the purpose of this column as it could be any candidate, or anyone who does not live here, who thinks they have the cure for what ails Selma and the Black Belt.

As political candidates do, after some handshakes and niceties, they began to outline their political resume, what they had accomplished and how they were more qualified than the others running for District 7.

As they spoke I quietly listened, snaked on finger foods and swilled my cocktail. I’d heard this speech before; many times. But my ears sharpened when I heard them begin to speak about their “connection” to the Black Belt, and how they understood the challenges we faced and how they could help fix what was broken here. The crumbling infrastructure, the high unemployment and massive underemployment, the challenges and failures in public education and often times strained relationships between citizens and government would all be addressed if only they were elected.

After the candidate answered several “softball” questions and got patted on the back for what a good job they had done in their prior position, there was a break in the conversation. It’s at that point I looked at them and said “I hope I don’t make you angry or hurt your feelings, but I don’t believe a word you’ve just said.” It wasn’t that I thought the candidate was lying about their accomplishments but I explained that nobody was going to remedy the issues in Selma but the people who live here – all the people, not just some of them. It’s the people of Selma, past and present, who caused the aforementioned issues we face and the people of Selma are going to have to fix them. And yes, I count myself as one of those people.

We are quick to blame our elected officials, our police force, our pastors, our educators, people that are “different” than us and, yes, the media, for the challenges we face and look to someone else to fix our problems. Instead, we need to hitch up our pants, come together as a community and, dare I say it, work together to make something good happen.

In the last two years I’ve seen some progress in Selma, but it has been insignificant in its scope and impact. City and county government seem to be operating at “status quo” while the naysayers continue to spew their rant. Our city, once known as the “Queen City,” is dirty and broken with little being done to fix it. Apathy is at an all time high, even higher than the unemployment rate that continues to dog us. We focus on the problems rather than focusing on the solutions and talk about “how things used to be.” It’s always someone else’s fault and it’s frustrating.

It’s a sad story, but it doesn’t have to have a sad ending. The one thing I know about Selma is there are good people here. Really, really, good people of all races, ages, demographics and socioeconomics. These people truly care about Selma but they feel helpless to do anything about it. They feel like they’re on an island surrounded by a sea of apathy. They allow the naysayers here to dominate the landscape and darken our future. Most sit idly by while the buildings and streets continue to crumble, the public education system flounders and the assets we have through the Grace of God remain underutilized.

Until these good people decide enough is enough, rise up and band together for the betterment of our community and actually do something instead of talking about it then things will remain the same and we’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves (or those that are left) when this community fades into oblivion.

If status quo is the outcome you desire, then do nothing and it will happen. If you want positive change, then do something. Be positive about your community. Get involved with your children or grandchildren’s school. Hold your friends and neighbors accountable for doing the same thing – and if they don’t, let them know they’re contributing to the problem. Block out the naysayers and the plague of fear and subversion they churn out. Recognize them for the potholes they are and go around them.

Who’s going to save Selma? We are. One person, one house, on building and one block at a time. The larger question is can Selma be saved? Absolutely, but there has to be an organized effort with a “take no prisoners” approach or the status quo wins. Which do you want?

Dennis Palmer is publisher of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at 410-1712 or by email: HYPERLINK “mailto:dennis.palmer@selmatimesjournal.com” dennis.palmer@selmatimesjournal.com.

going to save Selma? We are. One person, one house, on building and one block at a time. The larger question is can Selma be saved? Absolutely, but there has to be an organized effort with a “take no prisoners” approach or the status quo wins. Which do you want?

Dennis Palmer is publisher of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at 410-1712 or by email: HYPERLINK “mailto:dennis.palmer@selmatimesjournal.com” dennis.palmer@selmatimesjournal.com.

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