Tuesday, 17 March 2020
Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
The health of members in our community is important. Due to the spread of the coronavirus, as a precaution, several events have been cancelled throughout the community. Please call to confirm events.
It’s been four years since Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner created the Hope Mills Mayor’s Youth Coalition. It is composed of students from Gray’s Creek, South View and Jack Britt high schools and seeks to better inform the community’s young people on the business of the town.Since it was started, Warner has been impressed with the talents of the young people who have served on the coalition and how involved they were with their schools.
Initially, she recruited students who were active in the Student Government Association at each of the three schools. But as time passed, she learned there was a problem with that.
The SGA students as a group were extremely busy at their respective schools and often involved in multiple projects. So this year, Warner increased the pool of students involved in the coalition. She sent an email to the principals of each of the three schools. She asked them to nominate two members from their SGA as usual, but also extended an invitation to members of the Key Club and students involved in JROTC.
“We’ve found that Key Club members volunteer a lot,’’ Warner said. “I’ve also been really impressed with the JROTC programs.’’
The result this year is the largest group of coalition students the town has ever had, and they are tackling a project called Hope Mills Beautiful as they work together to coordinate a litter sweep of the town on April 18.
“It’s neat the way all three high schools have worked together,’’ Warner said of the current group. “I think the benefit is building unity among the youth (and) how they relate to each other. Bringing them to the table, it’s interesting to watch them work well together.
“We hope to get the majority of them involved in our Citizens Academy.’’
The chairman of this year’s coalition is Candace Williamson from South View. She is a member of the JROTC at her school.
Vice-chairs are Christopher Vanderpool of the South View Key Club and Melissa Medina of the Jack Britt Key Club. The secretaries are Hunter Stewart of Gray’s Creek SGA and Briana Jackson of the South View SGA.
In addition to their work on the litter sweep, this year’s coalition has composed a letter endorsing the town’s work on Heritage Park. Down the road, they may be looking at finding ways to improve conditions in Hope Mills for people with disabilities.
Williamson, who is a senior at South View, initially didn’t want to be involved in JROTC but decided to join in order to carry on a family tradition.
“I realized we are all a big family and we all have different stories,’’ she said. “We all came together. It taught me leadership skills and stuff I can carry on after high school.’’
Williamson’s JROTC advisor at South View, Sgt. Maj. Ruby Murray, said Williamson reminds her of a butterfly. “She didn’t let her light shine,’’ Murray said. “She’d sit in class and keep quiet, but she’s always gotten her work done.’’
As years passed, Murray said Williamson displayed more and more leadership ability, eventually rising to the role of battalion commander at South View.
“She started showing more leadership ability, taking charge,’’ Murray said. “She became the eyes and ears her second year. When the mayor sent out that email (requesting nominations for the Mayor’s Youth Coalition), I knew I had to put the right person in charge.’’
Williamson said being a member of the coalition is helping her learn how to better herself and hopefully avoid repeating some of the mistakes her elders have made.
She said being part of the coalition has helped her understand everyone has their own voice. She feels she and her fellow members of the coalition are trying to use their various voices in harmony so they can come to agreement on decisions.
She feels the mission of this year’s coalition, as shown by their involvement in the Hope Mills Beautiful project, is to make the town better.
She said the students from the three different high schools bring a variety of perspectives to the table. “I think that’s a good idea,’’ Williamson said, “sitting at the table with different leaders.’’
Pictured from top to bottom: Candace Williamson, Jackie Warner
Tuesday, 10 March 2020
Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
Dr. Kenjuana McCray made history when she became the first African-American woman elected to the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners last November.
But it was a page from national history that helped inspire her to run for office, and make a promise to herself to keep that history alive in her own memories.
Recently McCray made her second consecutive trip to Selma, Alabama, to revisit some of the most prominent sites connected with the American Civil Rights movement and the passage of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, prohibited racial discrimination in voting.
The event McCray participated in is called the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. It marked the 55th anniversary of Civil Rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge during a march in support of voting rights in 1965. During that crossing, now referred to as “Bloody Sunday," many of the marchers were brutally beaten by law enforcement officers.
McCray not only visited the bridge, but also museums and other historic sites in the Selma, Tuskegee and Montgomery, Alabama, areas during her visit.
She was most moved by the personal accounts of people who were invited back to speak who took part in the marches 55 years ago. “They bring in people that were foot soldiers in the movement,’’ McCray said. “You get to hear one-on-one stories about actual events that happened, things you don’t read in the history books.’’
She also attended a special event at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Selma, the site of a famous meeting held by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to conduct a planning session for the 1965 march.
McCray said that after she attended the conference for the first time in 2019, she made up her mind to again run for public office in Hope Mills. “It was one of the things that helped me make my decision I was going to run again,’’ she said. She noted that people of different races were involved in that march 55 years ago, and that people of different races lost their lives in the struggle for civil rights in this country.
“I have to continue to advocate for people to exercise their right to vote and how powerful that vote is,’’ McCray said. “It’s something I will continue to advocate while I’m in office and when I’m not in office. This trip helps remind me and puts everything into perspective.’’
One important lesson she has learned from her visits to the Selma area is the power of people working together for a common cause. She noted names like King and Congressman John Lewis, along with many others who were at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement.
“It was a collective group of people who helped do this,’’ she said. “It’s that whole idea of the power of what you can do if you work together and do things together.
“There were a lot of people who worked together to make this thing happen.’’