Thermal Belt Friendship Council wants youth to join race relations discussion

Published 3:16 pm Monday, June 23, 2008

Members of the Thermal Belt Friendship Council say their recent discussions on race relations are helpful, but they want to see more people involved from Tryon&squo;s Eastside community, particularly youth.

More than 30 people gathered for the council&squo;s meeting last week at the Roseland Community Center. It was the second meeting in which the council took up the issue of race, picking up the idea from Senator Barack Obama&squo;s speech, &dquo;A More Perfect Union.&dquo;

But the meeting included relatively few people from Tryon&squo;s Eastside community. Some noted the absence of youth and members of the Eastside Citizen Advisory Committee.

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&dquo;It&squo;s the elephant in the living room in this context. There&squo;s not one single young person in this room,&dquo; said Crys Armbrust. &dquo;This dialogue can have a real impact on their lives in this community. It doesn&squo;t behoove us to take action without their participation.&dquo;

Others at the meeting agreed and pledged to consider ways to reach out to youth and get them involved in the process. One person suggested that the friendship council initiate a youth summit that would provide guidance to youth and give the council a chance to connect with them.

Members of the friendship council and other citizens spent more than an hour last week reviewing and discussing results from an Eastside Citizen Survey. They agreed the survey was helpful and revealed differences between the Eastside community and other communities in Polk County.

Some people estimated that there are about 350 African Americans living in Tryon (the 2000 census showed 370), but they aren&squo;t seen in the theaters or the shops and restaurants on Trade Street.

Some from the Eastside community said many African Americans do not feel welcome on Trade Street, a feeling that can be traced back to the 1930s and 1940s. They added that some people in the Eastisde community are simply busy working and going to school and don&squo;t have time for other activities.

Some citizens said it appears the town&squo;s response for law enforcement and infrastructure work has not always been the same in the Eastside community&bsp; as it is in other areas. One citizen who attends Good Shepherd Church said she is concerned every time she goes there that trees or rocks are going to fall down on slopes that have erosion problems.

Citizens also questioned the lack of sidewalks on the Eastside. One person said some Eastside residents have said in the past they don&squo;t want sidewalks because they would &dquo;cut into their property.&dquo;

Beryl Dade noted that the Eastside Citizen Survey was very limited, having received responses from only 46 people. &bsp;

Donna Tatnall said it gave the council and the Eastisde community &dquo;a place to start&dquo; for their discussion of race relations.

Tatnall and others said the two meetings held so far on race relations have been very productive if only because they&squo;ve brought together different communities and people who have never talked to each other before.

&dquo;Even though we don&squo;t all live on the Eastside it is part of our Thermal Belt community and if one part of our community is wounded we are all wounded,&dquo; said Tatnall.

The friendship council plans to hold another meeting on race relations later in the summer.