Perkins likens opening to ‘Promised Land’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 11, 2002

Invoking the biblical analogy of a people moving from Egypt to the Promised Land, Mayor James Perkins Jr. officially cut the ribbon to open the East Selma Community Pond Friday.

“They said it couldn’t be done,” Perkins told the crowd of 50 or so people on hand to witness the ribbon-cutting.

And just as the Israelites began their time in the wilderness under one leader and ended it under another, so he acknowledged the contributions of former Mayor Joe Smitherman and former City Councilman Yusuf Salaam.

The pond is located in Ward 8, Salaam’s former ward.

“It took one to start and one to finish,” Perkins said. “But as the story goes, they were not in a position to finish this good and great work.”

Perkins urged residents to take pride in their new facility and promised, “This is just the beginning of the revitalization of this ward.”

Salaam recalled that the pond was little more than “a weeded area full of snakes and mosquitoes” when he was first approached by Annie Shortridge, an East Selma resident, about making improvements. “Now,” he added, “look what God has wrought.”

He applauded the cooperation between local residents and city officials that helped to make the project a reality.

“This is good for East Selma, this is good for the city and this is good for the Perkins administration,” Salaam said. “It brings a positive light to Selma.”

City Councilman James Durry, the current Ward 8 representative, also acknowledged the contributions of Salaam and others to the project.

“My job has been made easy by those who came before me,” he said.

In addition to the obvious advantage of transforming a blighted patch of weeds into an attractive park-like area, the project carries other, deeper connotations for the city, according to Durry.

“As a boy who grew up in this city, I know what it is to have to overcome a negative stigma,” he said. “And East Selma kids were given a different station – even in school. If you came from East Selma, you were considered not as good as the other kids. That’s just the way it was.

“I hope that what happened here today takes a little of that stigma away. I hope that what happened here today tells people that it’s not where you grow up, it’s what you choose to do with your life that matters.”

The park will be open on a daily basis, but residents will not be allowed to fish for another eight months or so. “We’ve got to let the fish get a little bigger,” Durry said.