Asking people to get involved in Augusta's efforts to promote racial unity has attracted the wrong kind of attention to the Human Relations Commission, Executive Director Frank Thomas said Monday.
In a news article that ran in Sunday's editions of The Augusta Chronicle, those interested in being a part of future race relations discussions were asked to e-mail or mail their name and address to the human relations office.
Instead, most of the responses have been anonymous and, in some cases, mean-spirited, Mr. Thomas said.
"They need to get on board. They need to give us their names and addresses, so when the human relations board starts meeting with various people in the community, we know how to contact them," Mr. Thomas said.
A July 18 luncheon on racial unity, organized by Mayor Bob Young, drew about 40 people, including clergy, politicians and community leaders. At the gathering, representatives with the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Relations Service announced they would start assessing racial problems in Augusta. By compiling information, Justice Department officials will work to root out the sources of conflict and create specialized crisis management techniques for the community.
The human relations office says, however, that since last week's luncheon, it has gotten a large response from people who don't seem interested in change.
"Those people ought to make themselves known to the Human Relations Commission, so when the time comes, we can make a place at the table for all involved," Mr. Young said.
The mayor's office also has received some correspondence regarding the racial unity program, including a letter last week from the president of the Augusta branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Branch President John Maben criticized Mr. Young for failing to invite the nation's oldest civil rights group to the luncheon.
On Monday, Mr. Young received a letter from luncheon guest Rabbi Jordan Parr of the Congregation Children of Israel Temple asking, in part, that future meetings should allow more time for discussions to take place, as opposed to simply listening to a guest speaker.
"This is a process of inclusion, so we want people with diverse opinions to be involved in it," Mr. Young said. "It's going to be a pretty big tent by the time we get through."
Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.
To be placed on a mailing list and notified of upcoming race relations forums, send your name and address to the Augusta Human Relations Commission, 360 Bay St., Suite 240, Augusta, GA 30901, or e-mail the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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