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Black leaders: Still room for improvement

During annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Trail March, leaders express concern over minority issues and the pending war with

During annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Trail March, leaders express concern over minority issues and the pending war with

January 13, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Area black leaders participating in a Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance on Sunday expressed concern over local developments regarding minority issues and President Bush's consideration of war with Iraq.

The comments came during a ceremony at Wainwright Baptist Church on South West Street in Charles Town.

The black leaders were part of a group of about 30 people who gathered in the church following a march through Ranson, W.Va., and Charles Town in honor of King.

While there has been progress on minority issues locally, ministers who spoke at the 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Trail March said there is room for improvement.

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When people go to banks, there seems to be different rules for blacks, and when the minorities go into the courtroom, the "law seems to be a little different," said the Rev. Ronald Paige of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in White Post, Va.

When people go to church on Sunday, there are "black people on one corner and white people on the other corner," said Paige.

The Rev. Ernest Lyles said the progress on minority issues includes the fact that more minorities in the area are being considered for job promotions. Lyles said there is a black counselor employed at Jefferson High School - something local black leaders have been pushing for - and Lori Stilley, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, has been supportive of a multicultural affairs director for the school system.

But Lyles turned a skeptical eye toward Shepherd College.

Lyles said Jim Tolbert, president of the state NAACP, and George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County chapter of the NAACP, were removed from the affirmative action committee at the college. Lyles said a comment was made that the affirmative action committee was not making progress because there were "too many blacks on the committee."

"Institutional racism is alive and well and what are we going to do about that?" Lyles said.

Shepherd College President David L. Dunlop, reached later by phone Sunday, said Tolbert and Rutherford were not reappointed to the affirmative action committee but they are not being shut out of the process.

The affirmative action committee was set up about 10 years ago to recruit minority students and minority faculty to the college, Dunlop said. Since then, the number of minority students and faculty at the school has dramatically increased, Dunlop said.

Because there are a greater number of minorities on campus, it was decided those are the people that should be on the affirmative action committee, rather than community members, Dunlop said.

Dunlop said that was always the plan behind the committee.

"There is no ill will intended. We felt the community members over the years have done a good job," Dunlop said.

Regarding possible war with Iraq, the Rev. Keith Butler recalled King's words when the civil rights leader received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King foresaw when mankind would fall "before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed."

A man representing the Ba'hai faith said the religion predicts that world peace is inevitable. "To act as a beast in the field" is unworthy, the man said.

About 20 people participated in the march from the Baltimore Temple King Apostle Holiness Church on West Third Avenue in Ranson to Wainwright Baptist Church Sunday. King's birthday will be celebrated next Monday.

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