Our children are not on an equal playing field. Unfortunately, it took an unbelievable tragedy to gain some insight into this reality. Since returning to Charleston about 6-1/2 years ago, this harsh realty hit me squarely in the face. I do not know all the solutions, but I do know one that is based solely on my belief as a Christian and as a person committed to treat each and everyone I meet with respect. My smile is perhaps my best gift, and I am extremely generous with it. So it is conceivable that my solution is to walk in love and show that you care. Impossible some may say, but to them I say, it is easier than you think. Simply imagine that it is a child that you love. What are the things that you would want for them? What are the things that you would say to them, and what are the things you would give to them? You would want people to treat them fairly to give them the benefit of the doubt, and to provide equality in all things – education, homes, and certainly in their community. Statistics prove that children who believe their communities care for them become more productive citizens of that community. I believe that if I were mayor, I would incorporate many of the ideals that I saw while my husband and I were stationed in the City of Chesapeake, Virginia. It is city that I miss; because, it is named, “The City that Cares.” I was so proud when I became a Prevent Specialist for the City of Chesapeake; because, I received this pin that told me the city care for me -” little old me.” I was shocked. I was from Charleston, and I know that my family cares for me, but I never ever thought Charleston cared for me. My supervisor came to me after only six months on the job and said, “I want you to be Co-Chair of Community Assessment & Planning Partners (CAPP). I was shocked. I could not believe this would happen – me a black girl from Charleston being put in the position of chairing agencies such as the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and having them take orders from me – unbelievable, uplifting, incredible, and inspiring. I soared. I wish Charleston had given me this opportunity – it was my home. I became the Co-Chair for the City of Chesapeake, bringing together all different agencies and organizations to work to make sure our children and all of the residents of Chesapeake knew that everyone cared and everyone mattered. We had a stake in their future; because, they are our future. And, then I returned to Charleston, and after my first week of coming back to work, I often found myself behind the Old South Carriage Tours, My heart aches as I look at the drivers wearing the hat and uniform of the confederate army. My heart aches and yet you expect me to believe that you care for me. How can you care for me when you do not even know that my heart aches every time I see this sight? Every day I ache; because, I see talented young men who would never get the chance or the opportunity to soar. Did we as Charlestonians embrace them? I see this missing element of allowing all children/all people the opportunity to soar. I see its absence in the court system where I am employed as a legal assistant. Did we provide them with the same considerations? No, perhaps we did like President Barack Obama said, “Johnny got the call-back rather than Jamal.” Perhaps it is time to come together to figure out ways for Jamal to get the call-back. I know I would appreciate it, and my nephew, Jamal would applaud you for it.
As mayor, CAPP would be my first duty to the City of Charleston to show everyone that they matter. The City of Chesapeake also provided quality community centers where children could soar. The center I utilized for my Community Day Event was the Clarence Cuffee Community Center. It is adjacent to the library where children could soar in more ways than one. Give us an abandoned building and we will turn it into a community center devoted to loving and uplifting others as God so loved us and watch our children soar. A group of nuns did it for me at a small community center on James Island. It was there for a short time that I saw some members of Charleston (outside of my family) caring about and for me. A place where children can feel safe, loved, and uplifted by people who have no agenda other than the fact that they care – how radical is that.