LIMA — Hundreds of people gathered Saturday at Faurot Park despite the rain for fellowship, to eat great food, and to talk about issues affecting the community.
It was the first in what is expected to be an annual picnic put on by the Lima Area Black Ministerial Alliance. Pastor B. Lamont Monford, the president of the alliance, said they were prepared for 1,000 people stopping by to enjoy live music or games for the children.
While fellowship and great food was part of the picnic, discussing important issues facing the black community also was on the plate, Monford said.
“At cookouts there are various conversations that take place and I think at the height of the political season there will be conversations like that,” Monford said.
Besides reminding people to vote and talk of politics, Monford said there are important local issues to talk about such as body cameras for police officers as well as forming a citizens review board that members of the black community can have faith in.
“We want a real citizens review board that is not represented by people who are appointed by various agencies to really just look out for their own best interests. We need to have people who are independent thinkers who are part of this community and will look for the truth and make decisions based on that,” Monford said.
Monford and members of the alliance also planned to talk about ideas to somehow recruit more minority police officers. He has pushed for hiring qualified candidates from outside Lima. Former Lima Police Maj. Chip Protsman, who was respected in the black community, was hired away to be chief of another department.
“That community came to Lima and got one of our best and brightest. Why can’t we go and get the best and brightest here?” Monford asked.
Pastor A.L. Butler of Providence Missionary Baptist Church said he planned to bring up a recent traffic stop of his son Friday while on the way to work. He said officers used profanity and pulled guns on his son during the stop just after 5 a.m.
Butler said his son was let go and he said police only let him go after they figured out he was connected in the black community.
“After they took his ID, found out who he was, they went back and tapped on the car and told him he could go. Those are issues that need to stop,” Butler said.
The picnic gave people from various churches the chance to come together as one and to get to know others in the community outside a person’s own church. The picnic is just one of a handful of events the alliance has planned, including joint church services, to bring people together, Monford said.
“One of the things we try to do as a mission of our organization is emphasize unity,” Monford said. “We are going to do this over and over again.”
Butler said unity is key to addressing important issues in the community.
“These events are great. It shows that we are united and that we are working together doing things together as churches in the community,” Monford said.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.