Though officially it was because of a light agenda, it’s presumed the Ocean City Mayor and Council canceled its meeting Monday night at least in part due to the Freedom Bus effort ending its tour of the shore at City Hall the same day. Attendees of the tour made it clear they were planning to crowd the council meeting in a show of concern for how they perceive police treated two individuals last month.
Though seemingly well-intentioned, the tour’s representatives who spoke at City Hall after a meeting with Mayor Rick Meehan and other officials were long on rhetoric and short on productive and meaningful dialogue. Worcester County NAACP President Ivory Smith’s comments were the most reasonable, saying, “The mayor is going to work with us and we’re going to hold them accountable. Everybody in this group needs to follow up and keep the pressure on.” However, Salisbury University NAACP Chapter President Dorien Rogers went the other direction, saying, “We have young students that come here, and they do not deserve to be targeted for the color of their skin. We shall not have that.” It’s wrong to maintain the individuals featured in the viral online videos were “targeted” because they were Black. It’s the easy and predictable route to gain attention rather than diving deeper into the full context of the situations and understanding the conflict arose from a lack of compliance with police requests.
Consistency and accuracy are paramount in these situations when police misconduct and racial profiling are alleged. There were no marches or press conferences held last summer when there were multiple instances of Black men assaulting white men on the Boardwalk. One disturbing video showed a white man being punched repeatedly by Black men even after he was unconscious. There were other instances of Black on Black crimes as well.
It was a good thing there was no outrage because words and actions most likely precipitated the brawls. The full context and all the details must be absorbed before jumping to conclusions. It’s why the tough and inflammatory talk before the media is unproductive. Claims of “systemic racism that continues to exist on the Eastern Shore,” which was said by Carl Snowden of the Caucus of African-American Leaders, led metropolitan news broadcasts and furthered an agenda, but have no place in meaningful discussions. Rather, blunt conversations about race should be more like the meeting held by the local NAACP this week. There was direct talk and concerns shared, but it was not inflammatory and geared toward television cameras like we saw in Ocean City with the bus tour representatives.
All too often people shy away from talking about race because it makes them uncomfortable. Nobody wants to say the wrong thing and be perceived in an extreme light. It’s understandable to be weary as race is a sensitive subject for many, but we need to be frank. For example, Berlin Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols, a Black woman who works in the education system, is refreshing when she talks about race. She expressed many blunt opinions at this week’s meeting and also called out her community for not being active enough in their hometowns.
“Right now, in the town of Berlin we are taking applications for every single committee,” she said. “My mayor said to me ‘I’m a little worried because there’s no representation showing up to apply from District 3 and 4.’ Let me make that clear for you. There’s no representation showing up from our brown and black community. I’m concerned. Please reach out. My comments to the folks in this town — get up, stand up, speak up, be a part. If you don’t speak up for yourself who is going to?” She continued, “If you don’t emulate and model for those young men and women that this can be done, change can’t happen, they’re not going to know. The same way you model bed time, meal time, shower time, respect, model for them the way to be an active participant in your community.”
It’s known the potential site for a major sports complex is in northern Worcester County. It makes the most sense, and it has been learned the proposed location is near the intersection of Routes 589 and 113, raising concerns about traffic for many.
These are issues that will need to be ironed out in the future, but it’s important to realize this effort is in the earliest of stages. It’s too early to even have a public hearing at this point. The county’s appraisal of the property must closely mirror the private property owner’s appraisal before it can even be considered for Program Open Space funding, which would be the primary money source.
Nonetheless, it was interesting to learn this week county officials have met with a management company who operates sports complexes like Worcester County envisions. This is an important development because the consensus among the County Commissioners was they didn’t want county staff managing the facility. The management company, which evidently operates 35 sports complexes, will be making a presentation to the commissioners next month.
While this is a key piece to the puzzle, I think it will also be interesting to hear what the citizens of the county want to see at this sports complex. Do they want an indoor pool facility in addition to sports fields? Should the project feature hotels, restaurants and entertainment amenities? It’s too early but the potential is exciting.