Hamilton ministers call for protest march to bring ‘attention of the inequality’

The Rev. Victor Davis, who has organized every Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in Hamilton since 1986, has called for a protest march at 10 a.m. Saturday as a continuation of events in Butler County.

It will begin at South Front and Ludlow streets downtown, “to show solidarity, as well as to further the effort to bring about the attention of the inequality that happens in America, across the board — socially, economically, educationally,” Davis said.

Although there has been a prayer vigil, Saturday’s march will be the first Hamilton event led by black ministers since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Two others were organized by the pastor of The Fringe Church and two rising high school juniors.

ARTICLE ABOUT HAMILTON’S FIRST MARCH: Hundreds march peacefully through Hamilton in protest: What happened Sunday

Meanwhile, the Middletown NAACP has scheduled a “Middletown United For Change 2020” march at 1 p.m. on June 20.

It’s time to move from protesting to policymaking, said Celeste Didlick-Davis, vice president of the Middletown NAACP, with the goal of starting “difficult conversations” about race relations.

With the Hamilton march, “We’re dealing with certainly the police and all the brutality that has taken place and the deaths caused by it, the disparity of the health system — all of that is packaged into this so-called uprising that’s happening across America,” Davis said.

Floyd’s death sparked protests across the nation and world, and while something similar hasn’t happened in Hamilton, “we hope and pray that it will not happen,” said Davis, a lifelong Hamilton resident who continues to live in the city while serving as pastor of Quinn Chapel AME Church in Chillicothe. “But these other issues that are still going on, we don’t want to forget them.”

“Certainly, Hamilton is not immune to what’s happening, it’s affecting us,” Davis said. “But I think Hamilton as a whole has not accepted the fact that minority citizens, particularly African Americans, will speak loud and demand, not ask, for change.”

He noted a disproportionate number of those killed by the COVID-19 pandemic have been black.

“We want the city and the county to understand, we still have disparity when it comes to the school system, the representation of staff, the representation of coaches, the failure to properly educate our children across the board,” Davis said.

The Journal-News this week published some minority employment statistics for the city of Hamilton and is seeking more specific data for the police and fire departments.

Of Hamilton’s 660 total full- and part-time employees, 3.5 percent are black (compared to 9.4 percent of the city’s population and 8.9 percent of the county’s); 0.0 percent are Hispanic (compared to 5.9 percent and 4.9 percent); 0.6 percent are Asian (compared to 0.8 percent in the city and 3.7 percent in the county); 95 percent are white; and 18 percent are women.

Davis called the city’s minority employment statistics “pathetic. That’s what we’re talking about,” he said.

“We encourage anybody who feels the injustices have taken place and would like to openly speak out,” Davis said. “That can be physical presence. Some people are not going to speak out openly, they’re not going to be recorded, they ain’t going to put anything in the paper, any op-ed, that’s not going to happen. But their physical presence shows a lot.

“So if someone is concerned, try it. Show your concern by being out there. The city of Hamilton has roughly 63,000-64,000. There’s a lot of people ought to be out — parents of children, whether they be African-American or Caucasian, ought to be out. What happens when it happens to Caucasian man or woman? Does that draw a crowd larger? What happens if it happens to a Hispanic? Everybody ought to speak out, in some form.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing how many ministers throughout the city will show up, how many of their flock will show up,” Davis added. “We preach in pulpits about loving thy neighbor, but then don’t speak out.”

Middletown march

Participants in the June 20 Middletown United For Change 2020 are asked to meet at 1 p.m. at the downtown Bus Depot, from which they will march to the City Building for a rally.

Didlick-Davis said participants will have opportunities to complete the Census, register to vote, become a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and join a committee.

Some of the committees will address the disparity in educational opportunities, economic inequality and the need for literacy and mentoring programs, she said.

“We have to have those if we want to move forward,” she said. “Civil action is part of this country. We have a 1,000-pound elephant that we need to address one brick at a time. There are gaps between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’”

Didlick-Davis said while peaceful protests are helpful after deaths like Floyd’s, more long-term action needs to be taken. Otherwise, “We just go from crisis to crisis, bad situation to bad situation,” she said.

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