Local Church Members Speak Out About Mayor's Comments - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

04/13/03

Local Church Members Speak Out About Mayor's Comments

Some church leaders used their pulpits Sunday to pray for guidance for Gulfport Mayor Ken Combs, and to find a way to repair the damage many say Combs has done to the black community.

It's been three days since the mayor used the words "dumb bastards" to describe opponents to a development in the predominately black Turkey Creek area. There's been an outcry for an apology at the very least, and some say Combs' resignation is the only answer.

Hurt and disappointment are two ways to describe the emotions at Saint Paul African-American Episcopal Church. Members gathering to celebrate the beginning of Holy Week say the mayor must be more sensitive to all the citizens he serves.

"Please touch the mayor," prayed one member of the congregation.

The congregation offered up a prayer for the Mayor, but most members say his remarks mean he can no longer be an effective leader.

"It just makes me wonder what kind of person he really is," Reverend Artimise Clemons said. "I also feel a person speaks from his heart...and if this is the way he really feels, he shouldn't be in the position he is."

Many there say the mayor should step down immediately.

"It's not going to do any good to apologize to the people because we won't believe him," said church member Nathaniel Hareden. "No apology is acceptable. He needs to just resign, to go back to where he came from, and let us live in peace."

"I mean it was mean and hateful for him to say that," said church member Victoria Adams. "I think he doesn't know anything about North Gulfport. I think he should have never said it. It makes people think bad about black people."

Some Church members say they can forgive the mayor for his comments, but they'll never forget them.

"We understand that we have these kind of seasons, I would say," said Rev. Clemons. "And we have always been overcomers because basically, the black community has always been a God-fearing, God-serving people, and even though the mayor thinks we're dumb bastards...we know who we are and to whom we belong, and we will rise over this."

Toni Miles

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