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Fence still stirs strong feelings

Perkins Shelton's article in the March 9 Neighborhood Times section, titled Security, not Walgreens' fence, is issue we should tackle, was a pitiful apology for the white corporate owners of Walgreens. It was an attempt to confuse, divide and cripple the African community at a time when a call to unity and a stand in defense of principle and the integrity of our people are urgent.

The new code word for "n------," adopted by the U.S. political system, is "criminals," "juvenile delinquents," etc. We can no longer be mistreated because we are black. We are now mistreated because we are "criminals."

Shelton suggests that white people and their property are things that need to be protected from a supposedly criminal-infested African community.

To do so not only confuses the real, historical relationship that African people have to this white-dominated system, it is a blatant lie.

How is it that African people are now the thieves and criminals when it was white people who stole us and held us in colonial slavery for three centuries, which were followed by another century of brutal lynchings that were festive gatherings for entire white communities. This was the violent and bloody underpinning of a racist system of political and economic oppression that continues to this day in a different but not less virulent form.

Only whites and the Africans who serve their interests forget these crimes and make African people the criminals. Of course, crime is always determined by those who hold power. As chairman Omali Yeshitela, leader of the Uhuru Movement, says, "In a system where there are slaves and slave masters, the slave master writes the laws and makes it illegal for the slave to run away."

Therefore, the issue is much bigger than the fence. It is about having the power to determine how our community is treated and portrayed. Our community must stand up to determine how we are to be treated by those who come into our community to do business. We must not be treated as outcasts in our own community!

If Walgreens thinks black folk are such thieves and criminals that it has to cage itself behind an 8-foot chain-link fence, then it should do business somewhere else.

To buttress his argument that crime, and not racism, is the issue, Shelton notes that several black churches inside the black community are surrounded by burglar bars and fences. Many white churches in the white community are, too. No Walgreens in the white community is. So, security is not the question.

Walgreens is not a church nor is it owned or controlled by anyone in the African community. It is a white-owned corporation that has come into our community for the sole purpose of making money. And it will make millions, giving back nothing in return but a pittance of low-wage jobs to a handful of the thousands of Africans who live in this poor, starving community. Walgreens is not doing us any favors.

At the least, we must demand that Walgreens return a minimum of respect and decency.

So, if Walgreens doesn't want to respect us, and figures the 8-foot chain-link fence will suffice to keep "the restless natives" in check, perhaps we should make them leave, and uphold the integrity and dignity of our people as well as set the terms for anyone who comes into our community to do business.

Sobukwe Bambaatam,

media coordinator,

Uhuru Movement, St. Petersburg

One fence, two messages

Re: The Walgreens fence controversy.

The fence around the Walgreens' on 22nd Avenue S does indeed send a message. Actually, it sends two messages. Which message you hear depends on what a fence means to you.

Those who prey on the weak and defenseless in their neighborhood, whose job it is to keep good people in fear so that their "career" of victimizing others will be easier, will see this fence as a "keep out" sign. It says you are not welcome here; we take a stand against you; good people will not tolerate urban terrorists like you; we put this obstacle in your way and we do not need your business."

Those who are honest, law-abiding, good people just trying to live their lives in peace and safety (the majority of that neighborhood's residents) will see that the fence has an opening in front for any and all shoppers and employees who approach with good will. They see the fence to say you are welcome; we care about your safety; we offer a gracious, well-lit parking lot for your convenience; we have a guard inside to protect all of us; we want you to feel safe and comfortable; please come again.

If the fence did not exist and the store became the focus of muggings, robberies and drug dealing, as has happened to some other businesses, the same people who decry the fence would ask why Walgreens doesn't care about their customers' safety. If the crime got bad enough and the store was shut down, those same people would call its closing one more example of the white man's racist attitudes.

A fence is not a slap to an honest person _ it is a safety net. Honest people understand that.

Martin Khoury, St. Petersburg

Opening doors to jobs

I am hoping that by writing to the Times I can in some way help my son, as well as the numerous other young black, unemployed males of St. Petersburg. I watch my son each morning get nicely dressed and proceed out of the house to once again go from business to business to seek employment. I also watch this same young man come home each evening upset and just down-right angry because white employers lie to him that they are not hiring, even though there are signs posted to the contrary.

I watch his expression of pain as he tells me that the same white employers either try to talk him out of completing an application for hire or that some even fold the application up and stick it in a drawer.

My son is a hard-working young man who has a son to support, as well as himself. White employers constantly claim that they cannot find willing workers and at the same time discriminate against young black men who honestly want to work.

Now can anyone wonder as to why the young black males of this city decided to riot? Even though rioting is not the answer, I can't help but wonder when the supposed black leaders, as well as the white employers of this city, will wake up and realize that the attitudes of the white establishment in this area are as bad as they were 40 years ago.

I want to challenge all supposed black leaders of this city to come together in a summit to find not just ideas for employment, but to get actual job commitments for these young black men. I am not talking about pretend jobs, but jobs where a young man can perform to the best of his ability and be able to support his family. As a parent, I cannot stand to just sit back and watch my son continue to go through this struggle alone without knowing that there are answers _ and that together we can make a change.

Brenda White, Gulfport

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