See? That wasn’t hard. We really can talk to each other.
As proof, I offer the Faith and Blue Weekend that brought together Cobb County churchgoers and members of the law enforcement community seeking to find the common ground that unites us if we only look for it. This past weekend’s event was created by Atlanta-based MovementForward, Inc., headed up by the Rev. Markell Hutchins. May there be many more to come.
Truth-in-advertising requires me to say I have not always been kind to Markell Hutchins in the past. I found him too eager to find a bullhorn and television camera in what I considered too many cases of shameless self-promotion. Not this time. He has done the right thing the right way and deserves my applause.
Contrast the concept of Faith and Blue efforts with the William Faulkner-misquoting crowd more interested in creating finger-pointing resolutions that have about as much weight as a sand gnat. These people aren’t interested in bringing people together. They need discord like a moth needs a back porch light.
According to Ryan Kolakowski’s report in the weekend e-edition of the MDJ, a number of law enforcement officials were on hand to walk from the Mableton Vision for Souls Family Worship Center to the Family Life Restoration Center with church members. A short walk to be sure but long on significance.
Cobb County police chief Tim Cox said Saturday morning’s march was a display of unity. “If I’m going to be the police chief, I need to be at these events, I need to be with our community members. I need to be walking with them.”
Calling it an “awesome event, Chief Cox said, “This group of people that are here are saying ‘We as a community are going to work with our police department to make our society better.’ It doesn’t mean that they agree 100% with the police department on every issue, but we have a common goal to come together and work toward.”
Kelleita Thurman, a detective for the Atlanta Police Department who has 24 years of law enforcement experience and is a minister at Mableton’s Vision for Souls Family Worship Center, said the gathering was focused on peace, love and bringing the south Cobb community together.
“The two strongest pillars in the community are law enforcement and houses of faith,” she told the assembled group. “When we come together, nobody can stop us.”
Thurman said she was on the front lines of protests in Atlanta that followed the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Thurman, who is Black, said protesters pleaded with her to march with them.
“From that moment, I wanted to do something to try to bridge the gap, to reduce the tension in the community and just show that we can all do this together,” she said. “It’s not us against them.”
Thurman, who grew up in Powder Springs, said, “When I grew up in Cobb County, I didn’t see police officers that looked like me. I only saw white officers. I did not want kids to feel the same way I felt as a child. I wanted little Black kids to see a Black officer and realize that you can do something for your community too.”
Craig Owens, the commander of south Cobb’s Precinct 2 in the Cobb County Police Department who also happens to be running for sheriff of Cobb County against incumbent Neal Warren, also joined officers and church members at Saturday’s march. He said walking with the marchers was a great way for the community to build trust with law enforcement.
“I’m responsible for the safety of this community as the precinct commander,” Owens said, “so it was important for me to come out in fellowship with our community and let them know how much we believe in them.”
It wasn’t all marches this past weekend. There were events hosted by law enforcement agencies and churches including in Acworth, Mableton, Marietta, Smyrna and Vinings.
There were cookouts and coat drives and a kickball tournament as well as opportunities for church members and law enforcement to talk to one another and to see each other as humans beings, not as institutions.
The Rev. Keith Young Sr., a bishop from Vision for Souls, called the event a success and said, “The purpose of this event was to show the community that they do not have to be afraid of the Cobb County police. They are here to help us. Going forward, I’m hoping that we’ll do this every year. I’m believing that it will be three, four, five times larger next time because good news spreads.”
I agree totally, Rev. Young. I not only hope the Faith and Blue event grows, I am praying it does. And may it continue to bring fair-minded folks who want the best for Cobb County closer together and confound those who want to split us apart. Can I get an amen?