ANDERSON — A panel of local leaders met before a celebration of Black History Month to discuss the month's importance — past, present and future.
James Warner, host of a radio program on WQME, broadcast his show Sunday at Anderson Zion Baptist Church to honor Black History Month and the achievements of important historical figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Before delving into the celebration, Warner invited a panel that included the Rev. Edgar Woodall, Steven Hoskin, Madison County Circuit Judge Thomas Clem, Madison County Council President John Bostic, Anderson High School senior Demetrius Peoples and others to speak about the continuing importance of the month in promoting equality.
Peoples was also invited to discuss prioritizing education in Anderson, specifically in the black community. The high schooler said his parents have been supportive of his goals to attend college at IUPUI or Ball State and become a physical therapist. He said it's important the community supports the dreams of all students.
"I'm blessed to be here and to speak alongside these men," Peoples said. "They inspire me."
Woodall said the young man also inspired him, but there's still much work to be done in ensuring the equality that King and civil rights leaders fought for. The panel discussed the George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn trials in Florida — cases where black teens Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were killed — that have provoked an outcry from civil rights proponents. The gaps in education, income and opportunities that still exist for black people were also discussed.
"There's not just been a disparity in income, there's been a disparity in the value of human life," Woodall said.
Clem and Bostic, two stalwarts of the political scene in Madison County, encouraged the full church of guests to vote and to fight for the issues that are important to them. In his years on the County Council, Bostic said he's seen a decrease in the presence and impact of black leaders in the county, and he wants to see it change.
"I think, generally, black and white, people aren't bad. But everyone needs a seat at the table so everyone has a chance to be heard," Bostic said.
The celebration wrapped up with a musical program on Warner's radio show. Sunday was the fourth annual Black History Program hosted by the church. Mary Hammock of Anderson said she came to enjoy the music and learn more about black heritage, and said she hopes the lessons will be heard by younger people.
That sentiment was echoed by Marzell and Teresa Stennis of Anderson. The couple said they've been soaking up as much of Black History Month as they can, and they're attending different educational programs around the county every week of February.
"It's extremely important to try to get young people involved — to see how far we've come and how far we have to go," Teresa Stennis said. "With issues like we have going on in Florida (Zimmerman and Dunn trials), there needs to be awareness about these issues for all races."
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